News National Turnbull government goes into damage control as PM heads overseas
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Turnbull government goes into damage control as PM heads overseas

julie bishop malcolm turnbull
Mr Turnbull said there was 'an order of precedence' when the PM is unable to do his duties. Photo: AAP
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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has been appointed acting prime minister as Malcolm Turnbull heads overseas for five days, making the first trip to Israel by an Australian leader since 2000.

As the fallout from Friday’s High Court ruling that seven MPs, including deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce had been disqualified, the federal government went into damage control on Saturday as speculation mounted as to whether Mr Turnbull would postpone his planned trip to Israel.

Mr Turnbull confirmed to reporters on Saturday that his trip would go ahead, Julie Bishop will be acting PM and there will be no deputy sworn in.

“Julie Bishop will be acting prime minister while I am overseas,” Mr Turnbull said. “The Parliament will go on.

“Having thought about this and discussed this carefully and with our colleagues, we’ve agreed in these special interim circumstances Julie will be acting PM while I’m away,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull will go ahead with his trip to Israel to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Beersheba, where he will also meet Israeli and Palestinian leadership and attend business events.

Ms Bishop, who was on a flight at the time of the announcement, is yet to comment her appointment.

Mr Turnbull said Barnaby Joyce remains the leader of the federal Nationals “but, of course, he is not currently in the Parliament”.

“Therefore the normal order of precedence in terms of acting prime minister falls to Julie Bishop as the deputy leader of the Liberal Party and Foreign Minister.”

No deputy prime minister

Mr Turnbull confirmed there would be no deputy prime minister sworn in.

“There is no appointment of a deputy prime minister,” he said.

Mr Turnbull added he would continue his prime ministerial duties while overseas.

“All decisions that are taken by the Prime Minister are taken by me,” he said.

“The acting prime minister is a role that is really designed to cover circumstances where, for example, it was urgent for a document to be signed — with my consent, obviously — but I’m not in the country to sign it.”

When asked whether he was annoyed that the Nationals had put the PM in such a predicament, Mr Turnbull was quick to say he “loved” the coalition.

“I love the coalition and the Nationals are great coalition partners. The Liberal National coalition has been the most successful political movement in Australian political history.

“The Nationals have had some big knocks lately. But when times get tough that’s when you put your arms around your mates and look after them, support them. Good government goes on,” he said.

He said he spoke to Barnaby Joyce on Saturday morning while out on his kayak. “It was a good and tranquil environment to be discussing important political issues,” he said.

Barnaby Joyce all smiles after gruelling 24 hours

Meanwhile, Barnaby Joyce was re-elected leader of the Nationals unopposed on Saturday.

He was endorsed to be the candidate for the New England byelection on December 2, which he is widely expected to win with his arch-rival Tony Windsor pulling out.

“I am very humbled the New England people have found it in their hearts to say I should have another crack at this,” he told reporters in Glen Innes after the New England Nationals signed off on his candidacy.

“I am going to do my very best on their behalf to make sure I will continue the delivery that we have seen here in New England.”

Mr Joyce was asked who should be deputy prime minister. “Me,” he quipped.

The High Court had ruled Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash were ineligible to stand for the 2016 election because they were dual citizens of New Zealand and Britain respectively.

Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek told reporters in Sydney on Saturday Mr Joyce knew he was not eligible to be an MP.

“Why should the people of New England trust Barnaby Joyce again, when all the way along, Barnaby Joyce was saying, sure, I am eligible to be in the House of Representatives, but as he admitted yesterday, in his gut, he knew he was not,” she said.

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