Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he will “take charge” of the Federal Government to ensure it can put its “best foot forward” at the next election.
But he sidestepped questions yesterday as to why he was occupying the prime ministerial chair that only three weeks ago was reserved for Malcolm Turnbull.
As prominent victims of last month’s leadership coup assumed their new seats on the Government backbench, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten asked the opening question: “Malcolm Turnbull is no longer prime minister of Australia. Why?”
Mr Morrison responded: “John Howard used to say something quite simple, and that is the privilege of serving as the leader of your parliamentary party is the decision of your parliamentary party.”
Last month’s leadership switch has failed to translate into an electoral bounce for the Liberal Party, with Newspoll yesterday showing the coalition trailing Labor 44 to 56, on a two-party preferred basis.
Labor also tried to embarrass Mr Morrison over the recent Government leaks, but he used his first question time as PM to strike an optimistic tone.
“The curtain’s down on that performance,” he said.
“My Government will deliver the strong economic growth that Australians need to have the choices they want.”
The Opposition is expected to continue testing the Government’s authority in the Lower House until a by-election in the seat vacated by Mr Turnbull, when a Liberal Party win would restore its one-seat majority.
A handful of crossbench MPs have promised Mr Morrison they will not support a motion of no confidence in the Government while Mr Turnbull’s previous seat of Wentworth remains empty. But the Centre Alliance’s Rebekha Sharkie said she would use that time to examine “the current Government’s ability to provide stable, good government”.
Mr Shorten said the reason for Mr Turnbull’s removal was what “every Australian wants to know”. “They cannot answer the very first question that every Australian has been asking for the last 16 days — why was Malcolm Turnbull sacked,” he said.