Julie Bishop has hit out at dirty tactics she believes sabotaged her bid for leadership of the Liberal party, admitting the recent spill has left her and others “personally devastated”.
The 62-year-old politician announced on Sunday that she had resigned as Foreign Minister and would be moving to the backbench, shortly after leaked WhatsApp messages were broadcast by the ABC’s Insiders programme, allegedly showing correspondence between Liberal politicians who were urging her supporters to vote for Scott Morrison instead.
Now Bishop has appeared to question why other Western Australian politicians didn’t back her for the PM job, in an interview with The West Australian.
Admitting the week had been “personally devastating” for several people, she admitted that she was aware of the Whatsapp group between some Liberal MPs.
The group, named ‘Friends for Stability’, contained messages alleging that Mathias Cormann was attempting to secure votes for Bishop, in order to divert the win away from Morrison.
Bishop told the news outlet of the messages: “You would have to ask the individuals involved but it appeared to be a tactic to promote Peter Dutton into the prime ministership, whatever the cost.”
One message, reportedly sent by Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher, read: “Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA votes behind Julie Bishop in round 1.”
It added: “Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out and his votes go to Dutton. Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in Round one.”
When some members of the group pointed out Bishop should be notified, another member, claimed to be Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne, allegedly wrote: “I have. Very respectfully.”
Cormann has since categorically denied the claims in the messages, and told Fairfax Media: “This is 100 per cent incorrect.”
Now, one Western Australian MP has told the West Australian they felt tricked into voting against Bishop in an apparent bid to keep Dutton out.
“We were forced to vote for Scott in round one,” they reportedly said. “There was a lot of people on that list who would have voted for Julie.”
Announcing her resignation from the frontbench on Sunday, Bishop said in a statement: “I will remain on the backbench as a strong voice for Western Australia. I have been pre-selected by the Liberal party for the seat of Curtin and I have made no decision regarding the next election.”
She previously went up against Dutton and Scott Morrison for Liberal leadership on Friday, but was the first to be eliminated with just 11 votes out of the 85-member party room. Morrison went on to win the vote to become the new PM.