Canberra: Liberal party room changes to stop revolving door of Prime Ministers

Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Stefan Postles/Getty Images
Former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

FEDERAL Finance Minister and WA Senator Mathias Cormann insists Australian voters can finally be confident the nation’s revolving door of Liberal prime ministers is over after a caucus meeting yesterday.

Senator Cormann accepts voters are sick of an insidious “coup culture” within the party that has seen consecutive prime ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott cut down.

Dumping the prime minister will now be far more difficult under a major shake-up of Liberal Party rules aimed at ensuring leaders serve a full term.

Two-thirds of the federal Liberal party room will need to support a change, a near impossible threshold to reach.

“We can’t change the past but we can certainly change the future,” Senator Cormann told Nine Network on Tuesday.

“What we are making sure here is [ensuring] that people across Australia can have confidence if they elect Scott Morrison as prime minister at the next election, he will continue to be the prime minister all the way through the next term of parliament.”

Mr Turnbull welcomed the changes but said only time would tell if they would ensure stability.

“I think people will welcome the prospect of there being less of the revolving door prime minister-ship. So it’s a welcome reform,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“How effective it will be? Time will tell.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison accepted the recent and frequent turnover of prime ministers – on both the Liberal and Labor sides – frustrated and disappointed Australians.

“They’re sick of it and we’re sick of it and it has to stop. That’s why we’ve put this rule in place,” he said.

Labor had already addressed the issue, implementing rules to safeguard sitting prime ministers after the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd leadership merry-go-round.

Labor leadership contenders now have to gain a majority of votes in the caucus and in a grassroots party ballot.

Nick Greiner, the federal president of the Liberal Party, said the new rules would stop arbitrary leadership changes.

Mr Greiner said although the changes went against the party ethos, it was time to catch up to public expectations.

“This is a clear admission we got it wrong … it’s not about the individuals, it’s about the process,” he told ABC radio.

“I just think it’s common sense.”

Mr Greiner, who describes himself as a Turnbull man, was also asked about the former prime minister’s public interventions in party politics.

Mr Turnbull on Monday unsuccessfully tried to stop Liberal party executives from sparing conservative Sydney MP Craig Kelly a preselection battle.

He also called for the Federal Government to go to the polls early so as to give the NSW government clean air ahead of its own poll in March.

“I do think the intervention was obviously not helpful, that’s totally self-evident,” Mr Greiner said.

He said the former prime minister had a responsibility to the success of the party.

“I’d like to think that he will remember those responsibilities when he exercises his right to speak.”

Senator Cormann also rejected suggestions Mr Turnbull should be reprimanded or expelled from the Liberals.

“Malcolm is a private citizen and he is entitled to express his views and I wish him well,” the minister said.