Any questions that might have hovered over the PM have been put to rest by this (Thanks to @Tadlette for taking the screenshot and providing me with a copy). There is now no more story, no cause for whipping up insignificant events from almost two decades ago and pretending they form a basis for news. That story has killed the story.
Let's leave aside the fact that the headline refers to the Prime Minister by her given name, in the way they never did with Kevin or John or Paul or Bob. Back in the day there were occasional references to "Mal" as an attempt to familiarise an aloof character, and "Gough" and "Billy" were only referred to thus after they had left office.
Let's leave for others the questions over the integrity of those who
Julie Bishop, the Shadow Foreign Minister, had carriage of this line of attack upon the Prime Minister. Bishop is an experienced lawyer; she's had cases die on her before today. When she acted for CSR against Wittenoom victims, her central and apparently sole tactical maneuver seemed to be to wait for plaintiffs to die. She's brought the same level of savvy to this high-stakes affair, going into a knife-fight armed with a plastic splayd.
She is up an environmentally-unfriendly creek without means of propulsion, and has nobody to blame but herself for not having spoken with Wilson drectly. Her predecessor as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Peter Costello, would never have allowed himself to be caught out to the extent that Bishop has. She is no use to her leader at all. She is never going to get Mal Washer to shut up about asylum-seekers now, never going to stitch together any sort of deal on wheat or any other important domestic issue, and will never be regarded in Jakarta or Geneva or anywhere else as anything more than a punchline. She's finished.
To understand the depth and breadth of her failure, let us compare-and-contrast her to another nasty, sand-groping, flamed-out Liberal.
Recently Wilson Tuckey made life difficult for Bishop over wheat - once again, getting involved without leading, and leaving no trace of or scope for a positive outcome for anyone. If he had really wanted to wig Bishop out, Tuckey should have pointed to his own silly face and said: look at me, Julie, I am your future.
In 1986 Wilson Tuckey seized on reports that the then Treasurer, Paul Keating, had been sued for breach of contract by a former fiancee. He had meant to use a schoolboy jeer, "Paul had a little girl called Christine", but in the heat of the moment he transposed the names and looked stupid. Paul Keating tore Tuckey several new ones, cementing his reputation as a tough guy and Tuckey's as a sleazebag. Keating then famously turned to Tuckey's then-leader, John Howard, and promised that Howard would wear his leadership like a crown of thorns; nailing both the attacker and the leader who had pretended to be above it all.
Tuckey sealed his reputation when he boasted on Four Corners of lying to Howard in 1989 while dumping him as Liberal leader. About a decade later, Tuckey called Kim Beazley "a fat so-and-so", and Beazley's popularity shot up. Tuckey never made it into Cabinet; the insult to Beazley had more impact than any policy measure he implemented as Minister for - um, whatever, trees I think. Tuckey spent thirty years in our parliament and achieved less for the public in nett terms than almost all current and former local councillors, schoolteachers, emergency service workers, cleaners, or shiny-bum clerks. Remember that when you hear that politics is the highest form of public service.
If Tuckey had held his seat in 2010, Julie Bishop would now be in Cabinet and Julia Gillard would not.
Julie Bishop is as exposed as Tuckey was, except he had no reputation for niceness or diplomacy to lose as Bishop has. If the government went after Bishop there would be a bit of half-hearted chivalry from Abbott and Hockey, but it would be a deeper wound for the Liberals than yet another barrage against Abbott. Bishop, remember, is the Liberals' most substantive appeal to female voters. This time yesterday she was the nice one, the brains of the Coalition outfit. The day before, Abbott engaged in a, um, ah, piss-poor attempt at, um, insisting that the PM answer questions, ah, without, um, articulating what those questions might be. This attack has happened on Abbott's watch and Abbott must pay for its failure; but cutting his deputy out from under him would be the sort of gut-wound that neither Abbott nor his party could salve, let alone heal.
I would now expect The Australian (Financial Review) to set up a webcam at Cheviot Beach, just incase 104-year-old Harold Holt emerges from the surf and wants his old job back. This is every bit as valid a story as the Wilson-Blewitt AWU thing. Politically, Holt is a proven election-winner and wrote the book on being a loyal deputy - and his future is every bit as bright as that of Julie Bishop. Given that the Perth legal market has changed beyond recognition since Bishop left for Canberra in 1998, she could do worse than waddle up and down Cottesloe Beach getting Life After Failure tips from the Bond family.