More details of dissent within Abbott government cabinet meetings have emerged less than a day after the prime minister rebuked his party room for “bad leaks”, warning there would be “personal and political consequences”.
The latest leak, in The West Australian today, involves a proposal by trade minister Andrew Robb to allow international airlines to pick up passengers in northern Australia in a direct challenge to Qantas and Virgin.
The paper says treasurer Joe Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann backed the plan, going on to say it understands Robb “is furious that his proposal to open up northern Australia to international airlines was dumped by Cabinet colleagues [on Tuesday] in his absence” and “believes his proposal has been misrepresented inside the government”.
The trial would have involved Broome, Darwin, Cairns, Karratha and Townsville and the details appeared to have been passed on to the paper just hours after the prime minister described his warning to MPs yesterday as a “come-to-Jesus moment”.
The PM was forced to act after embarrassing details of cabinet discussions about stripping citizenship from Australians suspected of terrorism were leaked to the media on the weekend. While Abbott subsequently denied the details were true, he read the riot act to the Coalition party room during Tuesday’s meeting.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop is currently overseas and has vehemently denied she was the leaker.
Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull also ruled himself out, saying “I don’t leak from cabinet meetings” and describing the leaks as “deplorable”, but “a bit of a wake-up call”.
“You should be able to have a confidential discussion and then when a decision is reached there should be a formal announcement,” he said. “They shouldn’t be leaked, they shouldn’t be foreshadowed, they should be published in the normal way.”
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