The Project, Canberra, interview with the panel

  • Transcript, E&OE

JOURNALIST Julie Bishop is the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party and joins us now.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for having me.

JOURNALIST Minister, the leadership change yesterday was executed very swiftly. How long had you been planning this coup?

JULIE BISHOP I wasn't planning it. I made no phone calls. I didn't count numbers. I was not doing it. I passed on information to the Prime Minister about the views of the backbench and the Cabinet. And that's my responsibility as the Deputy Leader. If I am approached by colleagues with views that I believe the Prime Minister should hear about it is my duty to tell him.

JOURNALIST When did Malcolm Turnbull first tell you that he intended to challenge?

JULIE BISHOP In the days beforehand, and then it was confirmed by others so I informed the Prime Minister as soon as I could.

JOURNALIST About the challenge? If Malcolm Turnbull said he was going to challenge and he told you that, don't you get straight on the phone to Tony Abbott if you support him loyally and tell him that?

JULIE BISHOP A number of people have said many things over the last six months. I provide the information when I think it's at a point where the Prime Minister must know. I am not the only person who provides the Prime Minister with advice and information.

JOURNALIST Do you think hearing that tonight, Tony Abbott would feel let down by you as Waleed points out? You are his deputy. Someone tells you that they are about to knife him. You don't pass it on. I mean...

JULIE BISHOP That isn't how it worked. It's been going on for six months. People have been talking about Malcolm and I had no idea of the timing until the day before, and that's when I informed the Prime Minister, as soon as I could.

JOURNALIST Yes, but you didn't. He told you - Malcolm Turnbull told you and you didn't tell Tony Abbott. Sorry to get hung up on this, but Waleed makes an excellent point.

JULIE BISHOP No, he doesn't.

JOURNALIST You get told and you don't tell your boss.

JULIE BISHOP He doesn't make an excellent point, because this is a matter that's been going around for quite some time, and I believed that the Prime Minister was still being given time, that no challenge would succeed, but then when people came to see me who had been Tony Abbott's supporters and said that they no longer had confidence in his leadership, when those people told me, I knew that the Prime Minister no longer enjoyed the confidence of the majority of the Party Room.

JOURNALIST Minister, back in 2010, you had this to say...

Clip: This poll-driven party knives its leaders rather than face the judgement of the Australian people.

Do you stand by those comments?

JULIE BISHOP I understand that these comments are going to be put to me endlessly and I understand that people will seek to draw parallels. The difference is, of course, that in February the Australian people were very well aware of the disapproval of a number of members of the Liberal Party, of the then Prime Minister's leadership, and it was a very public airing of the disagreements and disunity within the party. The Prime Minister asked for six months, and that was all public. I don't think it was a surprise to anyone that the six month period had come and gone without there being any improvement in the polls. I'm not saying this is all about the polls. It would be simplistic to suggest it was.

JOURNALIST Listening to Malcolm Turnbull yesterday and today there is a lot of talk about improving the sales message, about being able to argue the case better. That raises a question - I really would love to get your response to - and that is what do you think the problem was? Was it simply that Tony Abbott couldn't argue well? Or was there a fundamental problem with the policies that your party now has to confront and then deal with?

JULIE BISHOP There were a range of issues from management style to policy decisions, to communication but at the end of the day we had to ensure that we were getting our message, the right message, with the right policies for the Australian people, and there was a concern by a majority of the party that this was not happening, and so that's why they have changed leaders. The leaders bring very different style, very distinctive and different style to the job. In the case of Malcolm Turnbull, he is a highly competent communicator, he is a very strong advocate for the values and beliefs that underpin the Liberal Party and that I believe provide the most hope for the most people in this country.

JOURNALIST We will keep an eye out for some policy differences. Julie Bishop, thank you very much for your time.

JULIE BISHOP Thank you for having me on.

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