JOHN MCGLUE: Julie Bishop, welcome.
JULIE BISHOP: Good morning John.
JOHN MCGLUE: Why did the majority of Liberal MPs lose confidence in Tony Abbott as Prime Minister?
JULIE BISHOP: John, you will recall that back in February the party acted in rather a dramatic way to voice its disapproval of the leadership, its style and direction. No one mounted a challenge against Tony Abbott at that time. He asked for six months to turn things around and was given that time. Unfortunately in the eyes of a majority of the Party Room, things had not improved and in recent days it became obvious to me that Tony had lost the confidence of more than half of the Party Room.
As deputy, it is my duty and obligation to bring these facts to his attention. I did that, I didn’t ask him to stand aside. He knew the options that were available to him, he called a Party Room meeting and the whole Party Room had a vote and Malcolm Turnbull is now our leader. Under our parliamentary system, the leader of the governing party becomes the Prime Minister – so Malcolm Turnbull will be sworn in as Prime Minister at some point today.
JOHN MCGLUE: What did you tell Tony Abbott when you went to see him yesterday aside from delivering that umbrella-headline message?
JULIE BISHOP: I won’t go into the details of a meeting I had with the former leader of the party but I conveyed to him the views that had been expressed to me. It was of such great importance that I didn’t believe it was information I could keep to myself – that would have been abdicating my responsibility as the deputy.
People come to me to give me messages that they want leadership to hear, to understand. And so over recent days it was apparent that Tony had lost the confidence of more than half the party room and I informed him of that and it was up to him to decide what he would do with that information.
JOHN MCGLUE: The Liberal Party has been harshly critical of Labor for stabbing two Prime Ministers mid-term – harshly critical – why would the Liberal party itself now go and do exactly the same thing?
JULIE BISHOP: I am well aware of the parallels that will be drawn. The difference is that the party publicly last February – in the very overt way of calling for a spill motion – made it clear to the Australian public that there was a level of disapproval. Tony publicly asked for six months to turn things around. It was vastly different in the case of Kevin Rudd where nobody had any idea that the party was unhappy with him.
So I travel around the country, I am constantly made aware of people’s views of the leadership of the party. People in our Party Room were also influenced by the management style of his office, a range of decisions that had been taken and the manner in which those decisions had been taken. There was great reluctance to take this step and everybody wanted the Abbott Government to succeed. When we came into office in 2013, there was great hope, great expectation and in the view of a majority of our party room, they had not been realised.
I think the fact that the party room voted for me to continue on as deputy indicates that they want the stability and continuity in the deputy’s role and I am honoured and privileged to continue to serve in that role. It will be up to us to ensure that our colleagues feel a part of a team that can now work together, that the challenges of the past seven months have been put behind us and there is a renewed hope and optimism for the future – not only of our party of course – but for the people of Australia.
Malcolm will be a good Prime Minister. He is a very powerful advocate for the values and principles of the Liberal party which have served our nation so well. He is a very energetic person, he has great vision, he is very articulate, he is a good communicator and I’m sure the Australian people will trust him and he will win their confidence.
I’m focussed on the seat of Canning – we have a by-election this Saturday and of course the people of Canning have an opportunity to choose a new representative for them. This by-election is not about changing the government – yes there has been a change of leader – but there is no change of government. So for the people of Canning this is a long-term decision for them, who they want to represent them in Canberra.
JOHN MCGLUE: It is interesting timing. How do you think the events in Canberra will impact on the poll in Canning come Saturday?
JULIE BISHOP: Certainly the feedback I had in Canning over the time that I was there was that people were very concerned about the leadership of the party and there were many who were calling for change. So I will be in Canning this weekend on Friday and Saturday supporting Andrew Hastie. He is a fine person, he is very accomplished person with great personal skills and leadership skills and I’m looking forward to having him as part of the Liberal party team and representing the people of Canning in the way that Don Randall did – fearlessly and ferociously representing their interests.
JOHN MCGLUE: JULIE BISHOP: , how do you think a Coalition Government under Malcolm Turnbull will be different to what we’ve seen over the past two years in both substance and in style?
JULIE BISHOP: The leadership will be different – of course it will be. In terms of the direction the party will take, the two most important responsibilities of a national government are economic security and national security. And I believe that the Australian people will hear far more about what we are doing and why we are doing. I think that in terms of policy decisions people will see changes made more openly, more consultatively, more inclusively.
I’m sure that changes in policy and changes in direction will be communicated to the Australian people. We must bring them with us, they must be part of the narrative, part of the story of how we are going to make this country as great as it can be and realise the opportunities that this nation offers. We want there to be hope and optimism and people to feel that they have an opportunity to be part of what this country has to offer.
JOHN MCGLUE: Final question – countering the hope and optimism Julie Bishop – you have now seen four Prime Ministers in a little over two years here in Australia. I wonder what has gone wrong with Australian politics that has led to that style of instability. What has happened here? What has gone wrong?
JULIE BISHOP: Even the invincible John Howard was eventually asked by the Australian people to leave - not only his government but his own seat – so Australian politics can be volatile. But we have one of the most robust democracies in the world. We don’t have a presidential system – we have a parliamentary system where 150 electorates across Australia get to elect a member to represent them in Canberra. The winning party – the one with the most seats – get to elect the leader who then becomes the Prime Minister.
It is my hope that we will now see a period of stability and certainty and we will focus on the interests of the Australian people and what we can do to make their lives better, to make them part of the great Australian story.
JOHN MCGLUE: Julie Bishop, thank you for your time.
JULIE BISHOP: Thank you John.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555