KIERAN GILBERT Good evening and welcome to First Edition live from the lawns of Parliament House, with me this morning our political editor David Speers. Kieran Gilbert here and it has been a big 24 hours, the new Prime Minister, the incoming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who’ll be sworn in later this morning and David, Julie Bishop remains deputy.
DAVID SPEERS She does and as I was saying earlier, played a key role in the events of yesterday. One of the toughest things in politics, surely, is going in to visit a Prime Minister, particularly when you are the deputy and saying that it is time to go or that the party has moved and that it is now the time to call a leadership spill. Well Julie Bishop did that - that was pivotal in seeing the numbers shift behind Malcolm Turnbull late last night. Julie Bishop joins us now.
Thank you for joining us this morning and as I say this was obviously a tough thing for you to do yesterday, to go in and visit Tony Abbott. What can you tell us about that?
JULIE BISHOP I think it is the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in political life. It has been a very difficult decision for everyone but it became obvious to me over recent days that Tony had lost the confidence of a majority of the Party Room and that he had asked for six months to turn things around and that hadn’t occurred and the view of a majority of the Party Room was that they wanted to have a change of leader and seized of this information it is my duty, it is my obligation to inform the leader and I did that. I didn’t ask him to stand aside. I gave him the information and he knew the options available to him and he decided to call a Party Room meeting and have a ballot.
DAVID SPEERS So this was in the last few days that you came to this realisation that the party no longer wanted him as leader?
JULIE BISHOP This has been building up for quite some time but in recent days I was informed emphatically that a majority of the Party Room and a number of them came to see me, a good number of them came to see me about it.
KIERAN GILBERT Where did Tony Abbott’s Prime Ministership fall down in your view?
JULIE BISHOP It’s a range of matters and I don’t want to go over them all now and canvas them all but clearly much of it came down to the management of issues, the role of his office, the relationship with various members of the Cabinet and the backbench and I informed him of this. I’ve had conversations with Tony in the past. It is the role of the deputy to be the conduit between the backbench and the leader and it is a role I take very seriously and my colleagues support me in this role and so I will continue to do that. I have to be frank and I have to be honest with the leader and I cannot be seized with information that I keep to myself and not pass onto the leader.
DAVID SPEERS As I say, this has got to be one of the toughest things, and you acknowledge, one of the toughest things you do. I mean plenty of your colleagues have been saying this privately but you are in the role where you have to do that, do the deed. I mean you worked so closely with Tony Abbott for years and years through opposition and in government. You are close friends. How does that leave the personal relationship?
JULIE BISHOP It is a very emotional time for us all, very difficult, but we are elected by the Australian people to represent their interests and the Liberal Party has made a decision about its leader and now we must knuckle down and work for the Australian people. That is what they expect of us and I will continue in my role as Foreign Minister and I will represent the people of Australia to the best of my ability on the world stage and work very hard to ensure that Australia continues to be a strong and secure country, economic security, national security, the two most important issues that I have to focus on.
KIERAN GILBERT Can we expect any shift, or change in approach in terms of foreign policy under a Turnbull Government?
JULIE BISHOP There of course will be changes in style and focus and policies, but the Australian people will be informed, as we go along, as to those changes. I believe Malcolm will be very open and very accessible and he will also be very inclusive.
He is discussing the line-up of the Cabinet with a number of colleagues. It will be something that he discusses with me in detail and so I think that the changes that you will see will be apparent to the Australian people and they will be brought on board. They have to come along with us. They have to support us and have trust and confidence in the decisions we make.
DAVID SPEERS Have you settled on a Treasurer and a Defence Minister, two key roles?
JULIE BISHOP Malcolm and I have been having discussions about this and I know he is speaking to a range of other people but I’m not going to announce it. It is obviously a matter for the Prime Minister to announce but I know Prime Minister Turnbull is consulting widely.
KIERAN GILBERT Kevin Andrews said this morning that he would like to stay in Cabinet and stay in Defence. That would be his wish if the Prime Minister saw fit. I guess his argument being that the Turnbull Prime Ministership needs to be inclusive of what I think John Howard called regularly ‘the broad church’ of the Liberal Party.
JULIE BISHOP I believe Malcolm is very well aware of that over the last few days the colleagues that have come to see me say that Malcolm has been very consultative with them, very inclusive and he is well aware of the gravity of the decision that they have had to make. It has not been easy for anyone and nobody takes this lightly but we will form a new Cabinet, we will form a good government and we will continue to represent the interests of the Australian people. This is a great country with so much potential. We have a very exciting time ahead of us. I think the very best days of Australia lie ahead of us and we want as many people to share in the joy of being an Australian citizen.
DAVID SPEERS We’ve heard plenty in the Government get stuck into Bill Shorten for his role in bringing down two sitting Prime Ministers. What do you now say to the Australian people two years into this term, not a lot of time, that you’ve removed a Prime Minister that they elected?
JULIE BISHOP I’m aware of the parallels and I’m certainly aware of the comments that were made at the time and I’m sure many people will remind me of words that I’ve said. They’ll do that constantly I gather.
DAVID SPEERS [inaudible]
JULIE BISHOP Yeah, I understand that. I was aware of that at the time. But the difference is, and this is a significant difference, our party took a dramatic act last February. It was in the full glare of the Australian people as the party held a spill motion and many people spoke about that at the time and at that time there were no challengers against the Prime Minister. He had loyalty from his Cabinet and from his team and he asked for six months to turn things around and that hasn’t occurred and a majority of the party decided that he’d lost their confidence and they needed a new leader.
DAVID SPEERS Can I ask you Julie Bishop, did you think at all about standing yourself?
JULIE BISHOP I have been asked by my colleagues to be their deputy. I’ve been the deputy for eight years. It is a unique role and I have tried to be as positive and as inclusive with my colleagues in that role and I believe that they look to me for stability, they look to me to be a bridge between the leader and the Party Room and they look to me to promote the interests of the Liberal Party across Australia.
DAVID SPEERS It must have gone through your head though, I know some of your colleagues have supported you over the last six months for the leadership. It must have gone through your head.
JULIE BISHOP David, 70 of them voted for me to be their deputy and that is a very strong endorsement. I’m honoured to be the deputy of the Liberal Party and I am so privileged to be the Foreign Minister of this country. I’m so proud to represent Australia on the world stage and it is a privilege to serve the Australian people.
KIERAN GILBERT Finally, can I ask you about the view of the business community, a lot have been saying to us, and of course to your colleagues as well, that there needs to be a significant reform agenda that this Coalition Government should prosecute. Do you think that Mr Turnbull will be bold enough when it comes to tax and I guess, in that context do you need a full 12 months if not longer of the rest of this term to prosecute the case?
JULIE BISHOP I believe that we have ample time within this term of government to lay out a very detailed plan about how we can improve standards of living in this country, how we can grow job opportunities, how we can ensure that Australia is the very best country that it can be and realise the potential. We are a creative, innovative people. Our best natural asset is the Australian people, our best resources is their innovation, their creativity, their entrepreneurialism. We just need the opportunity to do that and I believe the Turnbull Government will provide it.
KIERAN GILBERT Foreign Minister, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.
JULIE BISHOP Thank you.
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