The government has torn itself apart this week and the Australian public isn't happy. Picture: AAP
The government has torn itself apart this week and the Australian public isn't happy. Picture: AAP

‘BRUTAL POLITICS’: Bill Shorten’s classy gesture to Turnbull

BILL Shorten has praised outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in a generous statement.

The Opposition Leader noted that "politics is a brutal business" and described his rival as a man who used the word "love" in his public remarks more than anyone else.

Mr Shorten lost the 2016 election to the outgoing prime minister but paid tribute to Mr Turnbull on the day he was forced to leave the job.

"For Malcolm, for Lucy, for their family and for his personal staff, who are as loyal and as close as family, this is a very hard day indeed," the Labor leader said in a statement today.

"For all our verbal conflict, for all the fierce words we've exchanged, I hope Malcolm knows that I have always respected him as a formidable opponent... as an advocate of great intellect and eloquence and as someone who came to parliament, relatively late in life, because he was driven by the desire to serve.

"Australian politics will always need people like that, on all sides."

Mr Shorten said he would often speak at the same events as Mr Turnbull and noticed something small but significant.

 

Mr Turnbull will need Labor’s support to pass the NEG if Coalition MPs cross the floor to block it. Picture: Kym Smith
Bill Shorten

"I don't think any Australian prime minister has used the word 'love' more frequently in his public remarks," he said.

"Anyone who listened to him speak could always hear his deep and profound love for his wife Lucy, for their children and grandchildren but also his abiding love for our country."

Earlier, the Labor leader described the Liberal spill as the result of a "brutal campaign" to tear down Mr Turnbull and said the government would remain hopelessly divided.

Mr Shorten said there was a lack of leadership in Canberra as he accused the Liberal Party of not treating Mr Turnbull the way a prime minister deserved to be treated.

"What we have seen here is the very brutal conduct of a campaign to tear down the leader of the Liberal Party in a most cold and unfeeling way," he told reporters in Sydney just before Treasurer Scott Morrison won the vote to become next prime minister.

"Changing leaders does not mean you can change division in the Liberal Party. You can change leaders but you can't change division."

Many commentators have said - whether jokingly or not - that Mr Shorten is the winner of the whole debacle in the Liberal party this week.

SCOMO'S MESSAGE: 'WE ARE ON YOUR SIDE'

POINTING into the camera, Scott Morrison had one message for the public: "We are on your side."

The incoming prime minister has addressed the media for the first time since his party voted him into the top job, appearing at a press conference alongside his new deputy Josh Frydenberg.

"There has been a lot of talk this week about whose side people are on in this building," Mr Morrison told reporters. "And what Josh and I are here to tell you, as the new generation of Liberal leadership, is that we are on your side. That's what matters."

Mr Morrison acknowledged the Liberal party had been "bruised and battered this week", but said Australians are a "resilient bunch".

Scott Morrison. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Scott Morrison. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

On outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, he said: "I have known Malcolm for a long time, as you know. He has been a dear friend. He has served his country in a noble, and professional way.

"Josh and I have watched and worked with him as he has led our cabinets and the achievements we have been proud to serve with him as a government, whether it is in the economy, whether it is in all the other areas that Malcolm has outlined today at his earlier press conference."

Mr Morrison also thanked Julie Bishop and Peter Dutton, who also nominated for the leadership, noting that he "looks forward" to them playing a role in his government if they choose to.

He described Ms Bishop as a "rock star" and noted he had personally recommended Mr dutton for the job as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

When asked to explain - in his own words - why the party removed Mr Turnbull, Mr Morrison simply said: "We will provide the stability and the unity and the direction and the purpose that the Australian people expect of us as leaders, about party and those of our great nation."

He noted that he "wishes Malcolm and his family well", but said he was "relishing" his first electoral test as a leader.

Mr Morrison said his immediate priority would be the drought, without elaborating. He also briefly mentioned electricity prices, affordable healthcare and national security as priority areas for his government.

TURNBULL FRONTS THE MEDIA

Earlier this afternoon, outgoing Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has fronted the media addressing the "insurgency" from a number of people in the party to bring down the government, or at least his prime ministership.

The speech marked Mr Turnbull's first comments since losing the Liberal Party leadership to Scott Morrison, and his last as Prime Minister.

"It was extraordinary," he said.

The government has torn itself apart this week and the Australian public isn't happy. Picture: AAP
The government has torn itself apart this week and the Australian public isn't happy. Picture: AAP

"It was described as madness by many, and I think it's difficult to describe it in any other way. In the party room meeting today I was impressed by how many of my colleagues spoke or voted for loyalty above disloyalty.

"How the insurgents were not rewarded by electing Mr Dutton but instead my successor, who I wish the very best, of course, Scott Morrison, a very loyal and effective Treasurer."

He said Australians would be "dumbstruck and so appalled" by the chaotic conduct of the last week.

"Many Australians will be shaking their head in disbelief at what's been done," he said.

Mr Turnbull said although it might surprise people he remained very optimistic and positive about the nation's future.

"I want to thank the Australian people for the support they've given me and my Government over the last nearly three years," he said.

"It has been such a privilege to be the leader of this great nation. I love Australia. I love Australians. We are the most successful multicultural society in the world, and I have always defended that and advanced that as one of our greatest assets."

He said while it had been a challenging time as PM, he was very proud of his record.


Mr Morrison won the vote in the party room meeting 45 to 40 after days of tense meetings and panicked phone calls among party members as the country watched its government fall into disarray.

Mr Morrison becomes the 6th Prime Minister in 11 years.

His deputy leader will be Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg who won the vote by absolute majority.

A defeated Malcolm Turnbull stood down following a vote of no confidence in his ability to lead the party to the next election after he called the long-awaited meeting to finalise the challenge for the top job that started on Tuesday.

Challenger Peter Dutton hoped he had the numbers to pull off the move he attempted to make earlier this week, earlier getting the 43 signatures he needed to force Mr Turnbull to call the meeting.

But those who signed the document sent their votes elsewhere in the secret ballot, with many who put their name to the paper understood to be supporters of Mr Turnbull's.

Upon leaving the party room, Mr Dutton stopped to speak to waiting media and congratulate Mr Morrison.

"My course from here is to provide absolute loyalty to Scott Morrison to make sure we win the election," he said.

Ms Bishop alsowent head-to-head with the pair but was eliminated when she received the lowest vote from the party.

Earlier today Mr Dutton personally delivered the petition to Mr Turnbull which prompted him to stonewall until the last minute in calling the meeting.

Mr Turnbull tweeted this morning that he had asked the party whips to verify all 43 signatures before calling the meeting.

Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison had spent the past 24 hours hitting the phones to gather the support needed to pip Mr Dutton at the finish line.

Former health minister Greg Hunt, who this week resigned from cabinet, said Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg were the next generation of leadership and two incredible people with extraordinary capability and credibility.

"They'll do a tremendous job," he said.

EARLIER: MALCOLM Turnbull has called a Liberal party room meeting after finally being handed the long-awaited petition Peter Dutton needed to force the Prime Minster to step down.

Mr Dutton personally delivered the document with 43 signatures from the majority of the party in his push to challenge Mr Turnbull for the top job, with the meeting expected to get under way at 12.20pm.

However, Mr Turnbull iwas stonewalling to the last minute. He tweeted this morning that he had asked the party whips to verify all 43 signatures before calling the meeting.

As the potential noon showdown looms, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison are poised to run, having spent the past 24 hours hitting the phones to gather the support needed to pip Mr Dutton at the finish line.

"It is becoming an ultimate joke," Sky News commentator Laura Jayes said.

It comes as the Solicitor-General released advice on Mr Dutton's eligibility to sit in Parliament.

He stated it was unlikely Mr Dutton would be disqualified however it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion without more information.

 

It comes as the Solicitor-General released advice on Mr Dutton's eligibility to sit in parliament.

It stated it was unlikely Mr Dutton would be disqualified however it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion without more information.

Nasty swipes are circulating over the political "circus", with Tony Abbott's former chief of staff Peta Credlin labelling Ms Bishop "Turnbull in a skirt".Ms Credlin said Ms Bishop had no chance of winning the leadership and she would not be the circuit-breaker the conservatives wanted.

"She is Malcolm Turnbull in a skirt," she told 2GB.

"It won't change the polls."

Mr Dutton's petition reportedly needs just one more signature to reach the 43 needed to force Mr Turnbull to call a party room meeting.

Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch has indicated he will be the 43rd signature if it needed, the ABC reports.

It is understood Mr Entsch has repeatedly refused to sign the petition but will only add his name to break the deadlock.

Mr Dutton was photographed at dinner last night with Mathias Cormann - who resigned as Finance Minister yesterday after declaring the PM no longer had party support.

Mr Cormann today said again he believed Mr Dutton was the best candidate to take them to the next election.

"He's best able to connect with hard working, aspirational Australians," he told Sky News.

"I believe he will be able to reconnect with the (John) Howard battlers. He knows what it takes to win marginal seats."

Malcolm Turnbull is ready to call a party room meeting at midday and stand down as Prime Minister if he receives a petition. Picture: ABC. Picture: Kym Smith
Malcolm Turnbull is ready to call a party room meeting at midday and stand down as Prime Minister if he receives a petition. Picture: ABC. Picture: Kym Smith

The embattled Prime Minister said he would call the party room meeting at 12pm if a letter requesting a spill, signed by a majority of MPs, was presented to him.

He said he would not stand as a candidate, and would resign both as Prime Minister and as a Member of Parliament.

"I will treat that as a vote of no confidence," said Mr Turnbull, who yesterday faced a mass exodus of ministers.

Mr Turnbull plunged his government and the country into chaos this week by refusing to back down from the top job, in an attempt to stop the callous challenge against him orchestrated by his rivals.

Public sentiment towards Australia's leaders is at a low, with Greens leader Richard Di Natale tapping into the unhappiness when he told them: "Hang your heads in shame."

Mr Turnbull's public and humiliating failure, sparked when Mr Dutton sent the government into "madness", has caused days of infighting among "bullies" and only paralysed parliament.

If Mr Turnbull does not survive the day, no prime minister will have lasted a full term since John Howard lost the 2007 election.

 

THREE-WAY CONTEST

Bill Shorten has always lagged behind Mr Turnbull in popularity even as Labor soared in the polls, but would be the nation's preferred prime minister if Mr Dutton were to win the leadership, according to a Roy Morgan poll.

A Reachtel poll found that 55 per cent of voters would be less likely to vote Liberal if the former home affairs minister were in the top job.

When asked yesterday why Mr Dutton was the best option to lead the coalition to victory at the next election, key senator Mathias Cormann ducked the question. "I'm not here to run a campaign for Peter Dutton," he told reporters.

His resignation yesterday and comment that he believed Mr Dutton was the best person to lead the party to the next election was labelled "the death knell" for Mr Turnbull.

Ms Bishop was working the phones yesterday evening, according to Guardian Australia, and had called more than a dozen MPs canvassing support by 7pm. But moderate Liberals said Mr Morrison so far had better numbers than Ms Bishop.

It's a marked turnaround for the Deputy PM, who had repeatedly promised loyalty to Mr Turnbull but has come under increased pressure in recent days from colleagues to declare herself as the third candidate.

A News Corp Australia online poll showed Ms Bishop was the preferred leader for the party among readers with 34 per cent of votes, followed by Mr Turnbull at 30 per cent, Tony Abbott at 17 per cent Peter Dutton at 10 per cent.

But despite Ms Bishop's popularity with the public, the path to the leadership in the party wouldn't be easy. In an earlier piece for news.com.au, Chris Urquhart noted that her moderate position, the questioning of her loyalty and her base in Western Australia - when the marginal seats need to be won on the other side of the country - were major hurdles for her.

There were also reports that Tony Abbott will stand in tomorrow's ballot, with Liberal MPs telling Herald Sun reporter Rob Harris he had "used Dutton all along", but the former prime minister has ruled it out.

Potential deputies include Josh Frydenberg and Steve Ciobo, with reports Health Minister Greg Hunt could stand as Mr Dutton's deputy in the ballot.

'YOU'VE FORGOTTEN EVERYONE BUT YOURSELVES'

Mr Shorten has largely remained quiet as the Liberals implode, but other Labor members have lashed out at the government.

"They're not conservatives, they are vandals," said deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek in parliament. "Today is the funeral of the modern Liberal Party."

 

In a similarly explosive speech, Penny Wong said: "People will remember the famous Menzies speech about the forgotten Australians that the Liberals always get doe-eyed about.

"You know what? You've forgotten every Australian but yourselves. You've forgotten everyone but yourselves."

The nation's disgust over Liberal infighting could, of course, play into Labor's hands at election time.

Liberal MP Tim Wilson described the petition as a "suicide note" for the party.

Speaking to reporters outside parliament yesterday evening, Liberal member for McPherson Karen Andrews said she understands only "one more signature is required".

"I will not stand by after having Parliament adjourned today to have this matter not concluded tomorrow," she said, adding that she would not necessarily back Mr Dutton.

Mr Dutton, pictured with key senator Mathias Cormann, does not appear popular enough win the polls to beat Labor leader Bill Shorten at election. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Mr Dutton, pictured with key senator Mathias Cormann, does not appear popular enough win the polls to beat Labor leader Bill Shorten at election. Picture: Jonathan Ng

 

ACT Senator Zed Seselja said there were more than 40 signatures, "certainly around about the mark."

He told the ABC "it would be extraordinary and I would say untenable if we were to say tomorrow that we will leave Canberra without having resolved this issue in the party room."

The NT News shared a powerful front page for tomorrow's paper, with the headline 'HANG YOUR HEADS IN SHAME'.

 

"Territorians, like all Australians, have had enough of politicians putting their own self-interest ahead of the people they are elected to represent," the paper says. "The events in Canberra this week are nothing short of disgraceful.

"By lunchtime today, we will likely have a new Prime Minister as 85 feuding Coalition MPs have the right to overrule the wishes of millions of Australians."

The front page echoed Mr Di Natale's powerful speech yesterday afternoon, in which he pointed to Australians who couldn't pay their medical bills, the homeless population, young people priced our of education and women who fear going home "because one woman a week is killed at the hands of a violent partner".

Mr Morrison was believed by moderate Liberal MPs to be ahead of Ms Bishop at last count.
Mr Morrison was believed by moderate Liberal MPs to be ahead of Ms Bishop at last count.

"And what have we got? We've got this spectacle. This disgrace. You should be ashamed of yourselves," he shouted across the Senate floor.

"You are so focused on yourselves that you have forgotten what the country has elected you to do, and that is to govern for them, not for you," he said.

"You don't deserve to govern. You deserve to be turfed out. That's what you deserve."

Julia Gillard also weighed into the leadership crisis, saying she could "understand why people would want to go and live in New Zealand given the leadership of the current prime minister".

 

Speaking at RMIT University, she declined to comment on the looming federal election and said her only advice for Mr Dutton and other challengers was to "drink a lot of water" and "make sure you eat some veggies and get some sunlight".

Scott Morrison, centre, and Julie Bishop have thrown their hats into the ring for the leadership. Picture: Ray Strange.
Scott Morrison, centre, and Julie Bishop have thrown their hats into the ring for the leadership. Picture: Ray Strange.

 

Former Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is believed to have almost enough signatures to bring a petition to challenge to Mr Turnbull. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch
Former Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is believed to have almost enough signatures to bring a petition to challenge to Mr Turnbull. Picture: AAP Image/Lukas Coch