Prime Minister Scott Morrison has attempted to justify his personal intervention in the Liberal party’s preselection process by claiming he wanted to stand up for “the women in my team”.
In an interview on the ABC’s 7.30, Morrison said his priority was to protect Environment Minister Sussan Ley, as well as Fiona Martin, whose likelihood of preselection was under threat.
“Sussan Ley, one of my finest cabinet ministers and one of our most successful women members of parliament, was under threat. She was under threat from factions within the Liberal Party and I decided to stand up to it,” Morrison said.
“I’m very serious about having great women in my ranks…Fiona Martin was another.”
The Prime Minister’s comments come after the NSW court of appeals ruled earlier this week that Morrison’s intervention in the preselection process is valid.
Morrison, along with NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet and former NSW Liberal president Christine McDiven, recently overrode local party members in 12 seats, parachuting in their preferred candidates.
Morrison denied he was playing “factional games”, insisting it was about getting the best candidates preselected.
On Wednesday morning, Perrottet called the situation a “debacle” for the Liberal Party. He also described it as an “abject failure”, not giving candidates enough time to set up a proper campaign before the election.
On 7.30, Morrison insisted his intervention was about sticking up for women in his government.
“I’m asked all the time.. ‘Why wouldn’t the Prime Minister do more about getting good women in Parliament and stand up for the women in Parliament?'” he said.
“So, I stood up for the women in my team. That was what the principle reason was and people know that. Of the candidates we picked, 50 per cent are women, 50 per cent are men. They came from Vietnamese, Indian, Chinese backgrounds, as well as Sri Lankan, Croatian.”
In the same interview, Morrison also incorrectly claimed that former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian had denied calling him a “horrible, horrible person” in leaked text messages.
Berejiklian has never denied the text messages, she has only said she didn’t recall them. Screenshots of the text messages have now been published by news.com.au, including the full exchange between Berejiklian and a cabinet minister.
“Morrison is a horrible horrible person. He is actively spreading lies and briefing against me re the fires,” the text from Berejiklian reads.
It comes after outgoing NSW Liberal Catherine Cusack said she would not be voting for the Morrison government at the federal election, despite her long history in the Liberal party. Cusack accused Morrison of ruining the Liberal party, and playing political games with relief funding for flood victims.
“He has totally lost his moral compass, it’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that any political leader would behave like this in relation to flood victims,” Cusack said.
“I can’t vote for Scott Morrison, full stop, at the next election.”