Julie Bishops quits cabinet after leaked WhatsApp thread exposes betrayal

JULIE Bishop has resigned as Foreign Affairs Minister after a leaked WhatsApp thread revealed why the former deputy received so few votes in Friday’s leadership vote.

Ms Bishop said in a statement this afternoon that she will remain on the back bench “as a strong voice for Western Australia”.

Announcing her resignation from cabinet, Ms Bishop said she had made no decisions as to whether she would remain in parliament following the next election.

The shock move follows Ms Bishop receiving only 11 votes from her Liberal Party colleagues when she up her hand to become prime minister on Friday, and a damning leak that could explains why.

A WhatsApp thread between senior Liberal MPs, broadcast on ABC’s Insiders, showed Ms Bishop was a victim of cruel tactics.

The messages appear to show politicians were encouraged not to vote for Ms Bishop in the party room ballot even if they wanted to.

Leaked screenshots from the group titled “friends for stability” allege Mathias Cormann, whose support of Peter Dutton was pivotal in securing the leadership spill, had secured votes for Ms Bishop in order to keep Scott Morrison out of the race.

But the conversation between Morrison supporters shows politicians were encouraged to vote for Mr Morrison over Ms Bishop in the first round.

“Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA voted behind Julie Bishop in round 1,” a message purporting to be from Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher broadcast on Insiders read.

“Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out and his votes to Dutton.

“Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in round one.”

Participants in the thread expressed some concern for the Foreign Minister, with one suggesting “Someone should tell Julie”.

A message apparently sent by Christopher Pyne read: “I have.”

“Very respectfully,” he added.

Ms Bishop was knocked out in the first round of voting in what was a three-way battle for the leadership between her, Mr Morrison and Mr Dutton.

She received only 11 votes in the first round, including from ousted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. None of the votes came from West Australians.

Insiders host Barrie Cassidy, who revealed the messages, said Ms Bishop was “entitled to be embarrassed and angry”.

“In the end, she was a victim of tactics and I suppose that helps to explain why she’s less than impressed with her colleagues,” he said.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, whose name was on the WhatsApp thread, told Cassidy Ms Bishop was “the most significant woman in the history of the Liberal Party”.

“We would love to see Julie continue, but that really is up to Julie,” he said. “We will all respect whatever decision she makes.”

On Friday, after the ballot, news.com.au journalist Shannon Molloy wrote Julie Bishop “should feel robbed”.

On Insiders, Cassidy said Ms Bishop was poised to quit the front bench.

“I think that I can say, that unless somebody is very persuasive in the next few hours, I think she’ll be calling a news conference and she will quit as Minister for Foreign Affairs,” he said.

Ms Bishop’s resignation announcement came shortly after the messages were broadcast this morning.

Ousted prime minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted about his former deputy, referring to her as “Australia’s finest Foreign Minister” and a role model for women.

Today we have lost Australia’s finest Foreign Minister @JulieBishopMP I thank Julie for her loyalty and friendship over many years but especially as my Deputy. She has been and remains an inspiring role model for women here and around the world.

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) August 26, 2018

Labor’s Penny Wong also paid tribute to Ms Bishop for her “trailblazing role as the first Australian woman to be Minister for Foreign Affairs”.

“For five years she has dedicated her life to our nation with a tireless work ethic and exhausting travel schedule,” she wrote.

“I wish Julie and her partner David all the best in whatever opportunities open up for them in this next phase of their lives.”

pic.twitter.com/F7zui7DwJV

— Malcolm Farr (@farrm51) August 26, 2018

Mr Morrison is expected to announce his new cabinet this afternoon.

As speculation grew about Mr Morrison’s new cabinet, the ABC reported that Western Australian MP Melissa Price would take over as Environment Minister from the new Treasurer.

Ms Price, 54, had been deputy to Josh Frydenberg in that portfolio since last December.

Mathias Cormann is expected to continue as Finance Minister.

BISHOP WEIGHS EXIT FROM POLITICS

AFTER her failed tilt for the prime ministership, longtime deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop says she’s weighing all her options as it’s reported she could leave politics altogether.

Ms Bishop is yet to decide if she wants to stay on as Foreign Minister under new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Ms Bishop, who also stood for the leadership but was knocked out in the first round of voting with only 11 votes, has returned to Perth.

“I am going to consider all my options and I am going to focus on running (in the City to Surf),” she told the Sunday Times.

“Once I have considered my options I will make a statement.”

Ms Bishop, 62, also stood down as deputy leader of the Liberal party, reportedly telling colleagues before the vote she refused to be “another man’s deputy”.

According to Fairfax, senior Liberals believe Ms Bishop is now preparing to walk from politics at the next election after 20 years in federal Parliament.

It was yesterday reported the deputy Liberal leader of 11 years could be in the running to become Australia’s next Governor-General.

In his outgoing speech on Friday, ousted leader Malcolm Turnbull said Ms Bishop had been Australia’s “finest” foreign minister. According to the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Turnbull gave his vote to his loyal deputy in the first round of voting in the leadership spill after he withdrew from the race.

Mr Morrison said he had been “very supportive” of both the former prime minister and Ms Bishop, and is believed to be keen to keep her in the foreign minister portfolio.

But there are reports Ms Bishop be considering knocking back an offer to sit in the government’s new-look cabinet.

Josh Frydenberg was voted in by his colleagues and was given the treasury portfolio on Friday.

Mr Morrison has made no other appointments public yet, but has indicated Mr Dutton and former finance minister Mathias Cormann would be welcomed back. Senator Cormann’s decision to withdraw support for Mr Turnbull is widely regarded as the turning point which led to the second spill. Mr Morrison and the senator, who was also the government’s leader in the Senate and chief negotiator with the crossbench, were photographed at work on Saturday. Mr Dutton has pledged “my loyalty completely” to Mr Morrison and the new government.

“I’m determined to do whatever we can to win the next election,” Mr Dutton told The Sunday Mail.

“I believe we are in a stronger position to win the election with Scott Morrison as prime minister.” Mr Morrison is expected to announce his new front bench sometime in the next few days.

Mr Frydenberg, Mr Morrison and Nationals leader Michael McCormack — whose party is entitled to five cabinet posts — will discuss the line-up ahead of an expected swearing-in early this week.

He’ll head out to regional Queensland later this week for a drought tour.

NEW PM ACKNOWLEDGES ‘DISGUST’

The leadership change that saw Scott Morrison installed as Prime Minister has been widely acknowledged as a move that’s served to bring public opinion of our politicians to a new low.

And the new Liberal leader has this morning acknowledged he has some comprehension of how the electorate is feeling.

Speaking on ABC radio, Mr Morrison admitted voters would be “disgusted”.

“There’s a lot of change this week. I know people would have been pretty miffed,” he said, adding it was “an understatement”.

“People would have been absolutely disgusted with it.”

Mr Morrison went on to say the sudden and messy had left the Australian public in a place that was no “where their heads should be at”.

“That’s where I’m going to get their heads,” he said.

Mr Morrison said he would travel to western Queensland to inspect drought-affected areas tomorrow, making the crisis his first focus as Prime Minister, and had not yet thought about moving his family into the Lodge.

In his first sit-down interview since seizing the leadership, Mr Morrison told the Sunday Telegraph his and new deputy leader Josh Frydenberg’s rise to the Liberal Party leadership had been “quite unique”.

“We have both stepped up to these roles having been very supportive of the Prime Minister and Julie (Bishop, the former deputy leader),” he said.

“We have crossed that bridge yesterday (Friday). It wasn’t a bridge we all necessarily wanted to cross at the start of the week.”

Mr Morrison said he would bring an “optimistic attitude” to the role.

DUTTON’S SUBTLE DIG AT TURNBULL

Peter Dutton has denied he’s a “wrecker” a day after losing the Liberal leadership battle, but he’s choosing his words carefully.

Seven News reporter Simon Love tracked Mr Dutton down in Brisbane on Saturday and asked him directly if he was responsible for taking down the former PM.

“Malcolm Turnbull yesterday was referring to some of the ‘wreckers’. Are you one of them?” Love asked.

“No,” Mr Dutton responded. “I’m very proud of the actions that we’ve taken.”

Then he took a stab at Mr Turnbull, saying “we were on our way to an annihilation” at the next election and, significantly, Australia now has a man that’s “honourable” and who “will do well for our country”.

Mr Turnbull’s outgoing speech on Friday referred to wreckers who had tried to undermine him and “if not bring down the Government, then bring down my prime ministership”.

“I was impressed by how many of my colleagues spoke or voted for loyalty above disloyalty, how the insurgents were not rewarded,” he said, moments after Mr Dutton had not been rewarded.

Mr Dutton told the ABC on Friday that he doesn’t regret his decision to run for PM “at all”.

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