Today Show, Canberra, interview with Karl Stefanovic

  • Transcript, E&OE

KARL STEFANOVIC Right now joining us is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Julie, good morning to you.

JULIE BISHOP Good morning Karl.

KARL STEFANOVIC Much of a night for you?

JULIE BISHOP It was a very difficult time for the Liberal Party, very difficult decision for us, and, of course, for me personally. It became obvious to me that a majority of the Party Room had lost confidence in Tony as their leader, and I informed him of that yesterday, because that's my duty as the deputy, and Tony knew that he had a number of options available to him, but the Party Room has now spoken and they've elected Malcolm Turnbull as the leader, and now the hard work begins.

KARL STEFANOVIC How did he receive the news yesterday?

JULIE BISHOP Very calmly. I know that the Prime Minister was aware that there was unhappiness. Indeed, you will recall that about seven months ago, the party took some pretty dramatic action at that time, and there was a spill motion, which didn't succeed, and no-one challenged Tony at the time. Tony asked for six months to turn things around, and unfortunately that hasn't happened, and so a majority of the Party Room, and a majority of the Cabinet, had lost confidence in his ability to turn things around.

KARL STEFANOVIC You and Malcolm have blood on your hands this morning though.

JULIE BISHOP That is a phrase people use. I found this a very difficult decision to take, but I had a responsibility as the deputy to inform the leader of the views of the majority of the Party Room and that's what I did, and the leader knew that he had a number of options available to him and one of them was to call a spill because otherwise I believe this would have continued and unless matters had changed dramatically, the Party Room would continue to feel that he could not turn things around in time for the next election.

In June 2013 you said, and I quote, "We've never taken this election for granted. We know that we have to win the trust and the respect of the Australian people and the revolving door of the Labor leadership really changes nothing. There is still division and bitterness within the Labor Party, the civil war continues, but the policies remain the same. It's the same old book with just a recycled cover".

KARL STEFANOVIC Now these words must haunt you today.

JULIE BISHOP Karl I'm very well aware of the comments I made at the time and I'm very well aware that people will draw parallels. The difference is that the party did take pretty dramatic action in February to voice its disapproval of the leadership and Tony Abbott asked for six months to turn things around and through that time nobody wanted Tony to succeed more than I. I have wanted this Government to succeed. I know that people are very reluctant to make this move, but a vast majority of the Party Room were unhappy and wanted things to change and they voted last night.

KARL STEFANOVIC You have ousted a sitting Prime Minister.

JULIE BISHOP It's a very difficult decision, and one that no-one has taken lightly, and in the Party Room last night, I know that the members felt the weight of that responsibility, and they took action.

I've had phone calls from Labor people who were around at the time, and they certainly indicated that it's a very challenging time for the party. But what we must do is move on and convince the Australian people that there is the stability in the party, that we can turn things around, that we do have their interests at heart.

As the Foreign Minister of Australia, I'll continue to advocate for Australia's national interests on the world stage and here at home. Malcolm as leader will also focus on the concerns of the Australian people and govern for the Australian people.

KARL STEFANOVIC There will still be significant divisions within your own party about this. The vote was decisive, but it could have been a far greater win for Malcolm. It was 54-44? In the end you have still got a massive division and wedge going through your own party.

JULIE BISHOP You will also see the number of people who voted for me are obviously concerned that we maintain the stability in the leadership. I've been the Deputy Leader for eight years now and clearly the majority of the Party Room want me to continue in that role and continue to be the link between the backbench and the leadership.

KARL STEFANOVIC There are people in the electorate that voted for you because of the instability of the Labor Party and the fact that they did this. Aren't you treating them with contempt?

JULIE BISHOP No we are not. We respect the Australian people's views. We are aware of the views of the Australian people. I spend a lot of time in the marginal seats...

KARL STEFANOVIC You can't be too aware or you wouldn't have done that yesterday.

JULIE BISHOP I'm aware of the views of the Australian people and they can be manifested in a number of ways. Polls aren't the only factor. We have a by-election coming up on Saturday. I'm very focused on that by-election. I did what a deputy has to do and that is reflect to the leader what I understood to be the views of the party and they were in fact the views because the Party Room voted for Malcolm Turnbull as the leader last night.

KARL STEFANOVIC It makes it hard to differentiate between you and Labor heading into the next election though.

JULIE BISHOP I'm aware of the parallels. It is a very volatile time in Australian politics. There have been changes of leader at a State-level and Federal-level. But the difference is the Prime Minister asked for six months to turn it around and seven months later a majority of the Party Room felt that hadn't occurred.

KARL STEFANOVIC How is the front bench going to change at this point?

JULIE BISHOP That's a matter for Prime Minister Turnbull to announce and I know he is consulting with colleagues now.

KARL STEFANOVIC Captain's call or is it going to be more collaborative?

JULIE BISHOP He is certainly asking me and others and I know he is even asking the backbench their views.

KARL STEFANOVIC How is Tony Abbott - how was he last night?

JULIE BISHOP He was calm. He was obviously very hurt. Emotionally, this is a very draining time for people and I feel for Tony and I feel for Margie and his daughters. I knew them well, and I know what stresses and strains that the leadership are under. And so it was a very difficult time for him of course, it was very emotional for everybody involved.

KARL STEFANOVIC Were there tears?

JULIE BISHOP I think there were tears shed.


JULIE BISHOP I'm not enjoying this Karl. It is a very difficult time.

KARL STEFANOVIC Why do it then?

JULIE BISHOP I informed the leader of the views of the majority of the Party Room. That's the role of the Party Room. That's the role of the deputy. If I had not done that, I would have been seized of information that the leader needed to know. And what I did was inform the leader of the views that had been conveyed to me, and the answer was to have a leadership ballot and that's what occurred, and the Party Room has spoken. And in the Liberal Party, it's the voices of the Members of Parliament who determine who will be the leader of the party and that's what they did last night.

KARL STEFANOVIC It hurt you that badly to be that disloyal?

JULIE BISHOP Karl, it is not easy being the deputy of the party and I'm sure Tanya, who I see sitting over there, will agree that being the deputy brings certain obligations and responsibilities and one of those is to keep the leader informed of the views of the backbench and that's what I did.

KARL STEFANOVIC Finally, have you spoken to world leaders about all this yet?

JULIE BISHOP Yes, I have had a number of calls last evening from a range of people who are expressing confidence in the new leadership team and they know Malcolm Turnbull well. Malcolm has been a public figure in this country for many years and he knows many of them personally, and so I've had a number of calls throughout the night and I'm sure that will continue over the coming days.

KARL STEFANOVIC Let's hope there is not another change soon.

JULIE BISHOP I don't believe there will be. That will be up to the Labor Party. I think the pressure will now be on Bill Shorten and I expect that's what you will be asking Tanya shortly.

KARL STEFANOVIC Appreciate your time. Thank you very much.

- Ends -

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