Julie Bishop has quit as Foreign Minister and confirmed she will move to the backbench – with her decision regarding the next election still undecided.
The 62-year-old politician’s decision comes two days after former PM Malcolm Turnbull confirmed he would end his own time in parliament ahead of the next election.
Bishop said in a statement: “Today I advised the Prime Minister that I would be resigning from my Cabinet position as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
“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.”
Turnbull shared his own tribute to his good friend just minutes later, writing on Twitter: “Today we have lost Australia’s finest Foreign Minister @JulieBishopMP I thank Julie for her loyalty and friendship over many years but especially as my Deputy. She has been and remains an inspiring role model for women here and around the world.”
Bishop went up against former immigration minister Peter Dutton and former treasurer 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.
In a moving tribute to his long-term colleague and friend, Turnbull thanked her for her ongoing support in his parting press conference, just hours after giving up his seat.
“Above all I want to thank Julie Bishop, she’s a very dear friend,” he said on camera. “We’ve been friends for over 30 years, she’s been an extraordinary foreign minister, I would say our finest… She’s been a loyal deputy and friend.”
It comes after leaked WhatsApp messages, broadcast by ABC’s Insiders programme, were revealed, allegedly showing private correspondance between Liberal politicians.
The WhatsApp group, named ‘Friends for Stability’, contained messages alleging that Matthias Cormann was attempting to secure votes for Bishop, in order to divert the win away from Morrison.
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.”