Tuesday, 4 December 2018
Questions without Notice
Liberal Party Leadership
Honourable senators interjecting—
They're a bit touchy, Mr President! I refer to the urgent, unplanned Liberal party room meeting last night, which, after an hour, approved new rules in an attempt to stop the Liberal leadership chaos. In response to the rule change, Senator Stoker last night said that she was hesitant because:
… I like the idea that a leader has an incentive to be responsive to the party room; and someone who can't confidently command half a party room should have cause to re-evaluate their approach.
Is Senator Stoker correct?
I'm pleased to confirm that the Liberal Party had a party room meeting last night after a meeting of Liberal ministers. That was to consider a proposal developed by our party whips at the request of the leadership group which will guarantee to the Australian people that, if Scott Morrison is elected Prime Minister at the next election—so he can continue to deliver stronger growth and more jobs and ensure that Australians are safe and secure—we will give an absolute commitment that he will remain Prime Minister for the full parliamentary term to the next election. That is a rule that can only be changed by a two-thirds majority—unlike in the Labor Party, where a similar rule can be changed with a simple majority. Arguably, Mr Shorten's position is now less secure and less stable than the position of our Prime Minister. No doubt that is why the Labor Party is starting to get worried about—
I'm quite bemused about how interested the Labor Party is in the internal affairs of the Liberal Party. I think, perhaps, you should pay a bit more attention to your own internal affairs. Let me say that we did have a very good discussion in our party room last night. Overwhelmingly, the party room adopted the new rule: that, if elected to government as Prime Minister, the leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party will remain in that position as Prime Minister until the subsequent election. That is because we respect the will of the Australian people expressed at an election.
Mr Morrison pretends to be the reluctant Prime Minister and, after more than three months, still refuses to explain why Malcolm Turnbull is no longer the Prime Minister. Given Mr Morrison no longer needs to retain the support of the majority of the party room, why isn't Malcolm Turnbull the Prime Minister?
Mr Morrison, to continue as Prime Minister after the next election, needs to secure the support of the Australian people. That is what he needs to secure. As we go to the next election, we will go with our record of achievement, having turned around the weakening economy we inherited from Labor, having turned around the rising unemployment rate that we inherited from Labor and having turned around the rapidly deteriorating budget position that we inherited from Labor. We will go with our record of achievement. We will go with our plans for the future. We will go to the election explaining to the Australian people how Labor's antibusiness, politics-of-envy, socialist agenda will make Australia weaker and Australians poorer. We will go to the next election with the commitment to the Australian people that, if they give Scott Morrison their confidence as Prime Minister, he will continue as Prime Minister to the election after that.
Why is Mr Morrison prepared to call an urgent, unplanned meeting of the Liberal Party to protect his own job but not to keep his promise to deal with energy policy, stagnant wage growth or discrimination against LGBTIQ students? Isn't it clear the only thing Mr Morrison and the Liberals are interested in is themselves and their own leadership?
I completely reject the premise of the question. Clearly the Australian people want to know that, if they give their confidence to Scott Morrison at the next election, he will continue on as Prime Minister to the next election. We have given them that firm commitment. We have established a rule that can give them that guarantee. Of course, that is an absolutely significant decision. It's an important decision. It was the initiative of the leadership group, who requested our whips to come forward with a proposal. It was adopted unanimously by our ministry and overwhelmingly endorsed by our party room. I believe it's a rule change that has the overwhelming support of the Australian people.