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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6365

Liberal Party Leadership


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:53): My question is to the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield. I refer to the minister who, on Tuesday, told the Senate, in relation to the sacking of former Prime Minister Turnbull:

… the Liberal party room made a collective decision in relation to the leadership of the party.

Rather than explain how Prime Minister Turnbull was sacked, can the minister explain why the collective decision was made?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:54): It's curious that those opposite are very interested in all of us on this side. I have to say, our focus isn't those who occupy this chamber; our focus is on the Australian people. What we are focused on is transacting the people's business. As you rose to your feet, Senator O'Neill, I thought for one fleeting moment you were going to ask me about the NBN. I thought for one fleeting moment that you were going to ask me about the undertaking that the NBN has given the ACCC that if they don't deliver for retailers they will pay a fine. I thought you were going to ask me about that. What we are focused on—

Senator O'Neill: A point of order on relevance: the minister may construct whatever question he wishes me to ask. The one I did ask, however, was: can the minister explain why the collective decision was made to remove the former Prime Minister?

The PRESIDENT: You reminded this minister of the question.

Senator FIFIELD: Thank you, Senator O'Neill, for your point of order there—always welcome. As I was saying, we are focused remorselessly on transacting the people's business. The matter that the senator raised in her question is one that has already been canvassed and addressed.

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill, a supplementary question.






Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:55): Can the minister explain why on Tuesday he supported former Prime Minister Turnbull, why on Thursday he publicly withdrew his support for Prime Minister Turnbull and supported Minister Dutton, why on Thursday he signed Minister Dutton's petition and why on Friday he then changed his position to support then Treasurer and now Prime Minister Morrison?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:56): It's my practice in these matters to be up-front, and I was.

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill, a final supplementary question.



Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (14:56): Was that the answer? Okay. I refer to reports that following the week of Liberal leadership chaos, 'Sources in both camps have concluded that the outcome was likely engineered by Morrison supporters from the beginning.' Do these reports explain the minister's swinging loyalty, that he's, in fact, a strategic genius loyal to Mr Morrison all along and that he even outfoxed Senator Cormann?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister for Communications and the Arts) (14:57): Senator O'Neill has obviously been working on this all week—the last question on the last day of the sitting week. All I can do is reiterate that the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party is a decision that is made collectively by members and senators.