Bronwyn Bishop was instructed by Tony Abbott’s office not to apologise for the $5000 helicopter ride that cost the former speaker her job, a new book reveals.
The Road to Ruin author Niki Savva has revealed Mrs Bishop wanted to “lay it all on the line” and issue a “grovelling” apology for taking the expensive ride at the taxpayers’ expense.
But the former prime minister’s office told her not to say sorry because it would imply guilt and could spark a domino effect that would impact on others.
“She was told not to say sorry, not to admit guilt,” Ms Savva told ABC on Sunday.
Mrs Bishop’s lack of apology sparked community anger, and almost three weeks after the trip was aired publicly, she lost the speakership.
Ms Savva’s book also reveals Liberal senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells’ concern about a rumoured affair between Mr Abbott and his chief of staff Peta Credlin.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells told Mr Abbott in February 2015 – on the eve of a leadership spill vote – that the perception he was having an affair with Ms Credlin was damaging him.
Ms Savva said confronting the pair took a “fair bit of courage”.
“It wasn’t just those rumours, it was everything else to do with their behaviour,” she said.
“Their behaviour, the way they ran the office, the way they ran the government, ultimately led to their downfall.
“Whatever she (Ms Credlin) thought should happen, she could get him to do and he was completely bound to her.”
Coalition MPs have played down the accounts in Ms Savva’s book, with Attorney-General George Brandis saying the events should be left to historians.
But Communications Minister Mitch Fifield urged his coalition colleagues to take it in their stride.
“There will be accounts of the events that led to a change of prime minister. That’s inevitable,” he told ABC on Sunday.
“I think it’s quite right that there is a public record of what led to such a significant change.”
He believes his party has shown “incredible” unity since Malcolm Turnbull toppled Mr Abbott last year, despite the former prime minister’s strong presence in media.
“It’s really for Tony Abbott to measure himself against the model of how a former prime minister, a former leader should conduct themselves, which is John Howard.”
Senator Brandis said Mr Abbott was determined not to be like Kevin Rudd, who disrupted Labor’s election campaign in 2010 after being ousted as prime minister by Julia Gillard.
“Tony Abbott has absolutely no respect whatsoever for Kevin Rudd,” Senator Brandis told Sky News.
But Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the situation was reminiscent of the Rudd-Gillard era.
“There’s no question it’s harmful,” he told ABC.