Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop rules out challenge for leadership

February 4, 2015 10:15 am

Feverish leadership speculation came to a head yesterday when
Australian Foreign Minister told at a Cabinet
meeting she was not after his job.
“I am not campaigning for the
job of Prime Minister,” Bishop told the meeting, AAP said. “I am not
ringing the backbench asking for support. I am not counting any numbers.
I will not challenge the leader.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Photo / AP
The move appears likely to
secure Abbott’s position – in the short term. But it’s unlikely the
Government’s leadership tensions have evaporated.
Bishop earlier
rebuffed a demand by Abbott that she rule out challenging him for the
Liberal leadership, it was reported. With leadership speculation still
raging yesterday despite Abbott’s defiant speech to the National Press
Club on Monday, one Coalition MP quoted ministers as saying that
relations between the Prime Minister and his Foreign Minister had become
“untenable”.
Another told Corp: “Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott now have a Gillard-Rudd-like relationship.

It can’t go on like this.”
As the Sydney Morning Herald
pointed out after Bishop’s statement, “a commitment not to challenge
does not rule her out from running if a leadership ballot is declared
and all positions are open”.
Abbott’s speech – in which he made
it clear he would not stand down, despite poor polls and a stunning
Coalition reversal in Queensland – evoked a mixed response among
backbenchers agitating for change.
Both Bishop and Malcolm
Turnbull, the most credible candidates for a challenge, have kept a low
profile since the leadership murmurings were sparked by Abbott’s bizarre
decision to knight Prince Philip on Day.
However, both
Abbott and Bishop yesterday declined to rebut a Sky News report that,
during a private meeting on Sunday, she refused to give him an assurance
that she had no plans to challenge him. Abbott evaded the question
three times, telling Channel Seven “people find all that ‘insider
Canberra stuff’ so boring”.
Ian Macfarlane, Abbott’s respected
Industry Minister, urged Bishop to clear the air, adding that Turnbull
had assured him he would not challenge Abbott – although others
questioned whether that was the case.
Two former Liberal
luminaries, Peter Costello and Peter Reith, did little to help Abbott’s
cause, with Costello writing a scathing column blaming federal Liberals
for the Queensland result, and Reith questioning Abbott’s assertion that
it was up to voters, and not his colleagues, to choose the prime
minister.
Scott Morrison, the third potential leadership
candidate, pledged on Monday night not to challenge Abbott, while
Christopher Pyne – whom some reportedly see as a “Plan B” conservative
alternative to Turnbull – denied that he had been “sounded out” by
backbenchers. And as an email from Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic urging
colleagues to “knuckle down … and not become the rabble we defeated”
was leaked to the Australian Financial Review, the Independent senator
Jacqui Lambie predicted Abbott’s imminent demise. “If these blokes have
any common sense, and want to move forward with half a chance of winning
the next election, they’ll get rid of him immediately,” she said.
Administrator faces crisis
Three
months into the job, Northern Territory Administrator John Hardy finds
himself confronted by a constitutional crisis. Effectively the governor
of the NT, Hardy may be called upon to resolve a standoff between Chief
Minister Adam Giles, who insists he remains leader, and Willem Westra
van Holthe, who declared himself head of the Country Liberals government
after a party-room coup late on Monday night.
Hardy says it is up to
Parliament to resolve the matter, but when asked if he had the power
to call an election, he said: “I’ll have to read up on that myself.”
Constitutional
law specialist Ken Parish said: “… we don’t know who the leader is,
or if either of them could command a majority.”

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