Scott Morrison says he couldn’t care less about the text messages leaked in the past week that described him as a “liar” and a “complete pyscho”.
As politicians converge on Canberra for one of the last sitting weeks before the federal election in May, the heat will be on the Prime Minister and his government after the text-message scandals and a slump in popularity.
“What people send around in texts, I, frankly, could not care less about,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney after attending an “I4Give” service at the King’s School Chapel.
“And frankly, Australians are far more interested in their jobs and their lives than what people are sending in text messages to each other.”
The Prime Minister said he remains focused on leading the country through the pandemic and keeping the economy strong.
Members of Mr Morrison’s cabinet have been quick to back their leader.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley agrees it has been a tough week for the government but insists it is the most united cabinet she has sat in.
“As a minister that has sat in three cabinets with three prime ministers … this is the most united cabinet table I have sat at,” she told Sky News’ Sunday Agenda program.
In one of the texts, Barnaby Joyce, prior to returning to to the role of deputy prime minister and nationals leader, called Mr Morrison “a hypocrite and a liar“.
“It wasn’t Barnaby’s finest hour by a long stretch,” Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews told ABC’s Insiders program, an interview she agreed to at late notice after Mr Joyce pulled out.
“He apologised, the Prime Minister accepted that apology. He offered to resign, the Prime Minister declined that offer, and they’ve indicated that they will work together.”
Another text revealed former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian labelled Mr Morrison a “horrible, horrible person” during the 2019-20 bushfire crisis.
In the exchange, an unnamed federal cabinet minister branded Mr Morrison a “complete psycho” as well as “desperate and jealous”.
Asked whether there was any prospect of Mr Morrison or Mr Joyce being rolled as leader of their respective parties, Ms Ley said: “Not at all, absolutely none.”
But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said there is no salvaging this government.
‘This government is a smoking ruin’
“A change in the Liberal leader or Nationals leader won’t do it,” he told Sky News.
“This government is a smoking ruin of division and disunity and dysfunction and ordinary Australians are paying the price of that. The government seems to spend all of its time dishing out free character assessments of each other.”
Mr Joyce’s text was sent to an unnamed party on March 22, and passed on to former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, who in the previous month had gone public with allegations she was raped in a parliamentary office in 2019, sparking a national conversation about treatment of women in the workplace.
“Tell BH (Brittany Higgins) I and Scott, he is Scott to me until I have to recognise his office, don’t get along,” a screenshot of the text reads.
“He is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. I have never trusted him and I dislike how he earnestly rearranges the truth to a lie.”
Mr Joyce returned to the Nationals leadership three months later.
“My view from the backbench about the Prime Minister was based on assumption and commentary, not from a one-on-one working relationship,” Mr Joyce told reporters on Saturday.
“From a one-on-one working relationship, I found a man who has honoured every agreement that he’s made with me.”