News National Swings and roundabouts as not-so-secret men’s business raises more questions of leadership

Swings and roundabouts as not-so-secret men’s business raises more questions of leadership

Steve Ciobo, Christopher Pyne, Mathias Cormann and Scott Morrison. Photos: Getty
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It’s 10 years since readers opened the national broadsheet to the news that then deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop was being targeted by a group of male MPs.

The men, said to include Mathias Cormann and Christopher Pyne,  wanted Joe Hockey as shadow treasurer. They got their wish, with Ms Bishop relinquishing her role to the man who went on to achieve infamy with his 2014 budget.

To his fury, Senator Cormann was named among the group, which allegedly didn’t think Ms Bishop was much chop. It was a charge he denied.

Mr Pyne was also named, prompting a somewhat theatrical denial.

There was also speculation another recent retiree, Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo, was a member.

Certainly, it’s true that he was keener on Peter Dutton or Mr Hockey having their hands on the economic portfolio.

Fast forward 10 years and Ms Bishop, Mr Pyne and Mr Ciobo are bowing out of politics.

And there’s clearly no love lost between Senator Cormann and Ms Bishop, who provided an exit interview to her local newspaper claiming only she could have beaten Bill Shorten at the election.

“I don’t understand his (Senator Cormann’s) motives in seeking to change the leadership to Peter Dutton last year,” Ms Bishop said.

“You still wish he would explain his motives in backing Peter Dutton over Malcolm Turnbull and causing enormous instability within the Liberal Party.”

Ms Bishop’s bucketing of her colleague was exquisitely timed.

She knows Prime Minister Scott Morrison is just about to fly into Perth, forcing her fellow Western Australia, Senator Cormann, to stand next to him while he is asked questions about Ms Bishop’s remarks.

Asked for his views on Ms Bishop’s comments on Sunday, Senator Cormann told The New Daily he had only nice things to say about her as she makes her way towards the exit.

“Julie Bishop has made an outstanding contribution throughout her parliamentary career and I wish her all the best for all her future endeavours,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Shorten leapt on her remarks as evidence of the shabby way the Liberal Party treats female MPs.

“Even though she was the loyal deputy for four Liberal leaders, it says a lot for the way the Liberal Party treats its women MPs that she never got the chance to be the leader,” he told the Nine Network.

“This is the challenge for the Liberal Party. They have a women’s problem.

“In the Parliament there’s only 11 women MPs out of the 58 in the House of Representatives. Of those 11 MPs, four of them are quitting. One of the women quitting said it’s because the party is anti-women. Two of the other women quitting are being replaced by men.

“The final one, Julie Bishop, after 10 years could only get 10 Liberals to vote for her to be leader. There’s not a lot of loyalty that goes to the women of the Liberal Party.”

Ms Bishop also took a swing on Sunday at Mr Pyne, who switched votes from her to Mr Morrison to ensure Mr Dutton couldn’t win in last August’s leadership coup.

“I am now told that there was a view, led by Christopher Pyne and others, that even though I would have 28 votes – which was many more than Scott Morrison – it wouldn’t be enough to beat Peter Dutton,” Ms Bishop said.

This confirms revelations that broke just after the August 24 spill, that Mr Pyne had discussed his decision in a WhatsApp group with other MPs.

Way back in 2009, the journalist who broke the story was The Australian‘s Glenn Milne.

He and his then wife lobbyist Jannette Cotterell were known to be close to Ms Bishop, leading to inevitable speculation that Ms Bishop had planted the story as a get-square, as her colleagues accused her of sometimes doing.

The recent killer anecdote that Mr Morrison did not respect Ms Bishop, because he was interested only in her handing over pop singer Tina Arena’s mobile phone number, was also widely considered by her colleagues to have come from sources close to Ms Bishop.

Proving revenge is a dish best served cold, Ms Bishop has bided her time before coming out into the open with a precision strike on the men who not only blocked her from becoming the Liberal Party’s first female leader, but also stopped her from becoming the first female treasurer.

But the truth is that it’s bad blood between Ms Bishop and the men who wanted to stop her that meant they were never going to cop her as prime minister.

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