- Former Liberal minister Peter Dutton has spoken to the media after challenging Malcolm Turnbull for the Liberal leadership in a partyroom meeting this morning.
- With 35 votes to Malcolm Turnbull’s 48, Dutton only needed another 7 MPs to support him in order to oust the prime minister.
- He talked extensively about his parliamentary experience and didn’t rule out another challenge.
Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton spoke extensively about his parliamentary record and determination to keep Bill Shorten from becoming prime minister after his failed challenge to Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party this morning.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull declared the leadership open, Dutton challenged, but lost the secret ballot 48-35.
The closeness of the vote has wounded Turnbull, who is now clearly leading a divided party.
Turnbull asked Dutton if he would stay on as Minister, but he resigned and moved to the backbench, where he is no longer bound by cabinet solidarity and can speak freely.
Dutton spoke to the media on Tuesday afternoon and didn’t rule out a further challenge.
“It is good to be in front of the cameras where I can smile and maybe show a different side to what I show when I talk about border protection,” he said.
He briefly thanked his colleagues for their “considerable support,” talked about his pride for the Home Affairs portfolio, and then recounted his parliamentary experience, including serving as assistant treasurer in the Howard government under Peter Costello.
“I have been on the frontbench for 14 years and have served four Liberal leaders loyally, including Malcolm Turnbull,” he said.
“Over that period of time I have been assistant treasurer to Peter Costello and John Howard, with whom I work quite closely and to this day I consider a mentor.
“I have been the shadow minister for health and finance, I have been the health minister, the minister for sport and I have been the minister for workforce participation.
“But I have most enjoy being minister for home affairs because of the people who work within those agencies and the incredibly important work that they support. I am proud of the fact that I got children out of detention. We have now moved almost 400 people off Manus Island and Nauru and that is a significant achievement.
“I worked closely with Malcolm Turnbull to make sure we can achieve that.
“We closed the detention centres and we kept the boats stopped and we know that threat still exists and like no other country in the world, we have been able to deal with our migration program.”
Despite the spill, Dutton said he had “no personal animosity” against Malcolm Turnbull, rather he felt he was the best person to ensure Opposition leader Bill Shorten never gains prime ministership.
“I made a decision to contest this ballot because I want to make sure we can keep Bill Shorten from ever being prime minister of this country,” he said.
“The problem is that Bill Shorten would be a disastrous prime minister of this country and I believe I had the best prospect of leading the Liberal party to success at the next election.
“That was not to be today and I understand and I respect the outcome and I fully support the prime minister and the cabinet.”
Dutton then set out what he thought the government needed to do in order to stay in office.
“I believe strongly that we can win the election if we get the policies and the message right about lowering electricity prices, about making sure that we can do more on infrastructure and in particular around the migration program, until the infrastructure can catch up in our capital cities.
“We need to invest more in water to get farmers out of drought so they do not go through what they go through at the moment. We need to invest record amounts into health and education, aged care and other areas as well. I would like to contribute to public debates. I very much want to support the government and make sure the Coalition can win the next election.”
When he was asked whether he would make another tilt for the leadership, Dutton wouldn’t rule it out.
Instead he said, “my position from here will be to do what I can as a backbencher to make sure that I support the government, to make sure we are elected”.
“My job is to respect the view of the party room, which I do,” he said.
“I have been in the parliament for 17 years and on the frontbench for 14. I will work every day to make sure that the Coalition is elected at the next election and I want to make sure that I support the prime minister and make sure that we support the policies of the government because ultimately I never ever want to see Bill Shorten as prime minister of this country because it would be a disaster.
“My job from here, my next step, my job from here, that is to make sure I can prosecute the sort of messages that I have just spoken about and that is what I am focused on.
“I will make sure that I can do all I can to make certain that the Coalition wins the next election and that Bill Shorten never ever becomes Prime Minister.”
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