27 Feb 2015

Bishop quizzed over leadership

3:58 pm on 27 February 2015

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop faced a barrage of questions over the leadership of Tony Abbott when she fronted a joint media conference in Auckland today.

Julie Bishop

Julie Bishop Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Ms Bishop and Mr Abbott are in New Zealand this weekend for the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.

While Mr Abbott's in New Zealand, Australian federal government frontbenchers are trying to shut down talk of another leadership vote.

He survived a move on his leadership earlier this month.

However, the ABC is reporting there is now open despair at Mr Abbott's leadership style within Coalition ranks, even among those who previously supported him.

The first question put to Ms Bishop during the media conference was whether the leadership of the Liberal Party should be determined in the party room, or by the Australian people.

"It is self-evident that the individual members of the party room are able to elect the leader and the deputy leader of the Liberal Party, that has always been the case and I imagine it will continue to be the case."

And would she like to be the next Prime Minister of Australia?

"The role of Prime Minister of Australia is occupied by Prime Minister Abbott.

"Recently there was an attempt at a leadership spill, it did not succeed and so these questions are all hypothetical speculation."

She was asked if Tony Abbott was challenged again, would she put herself forward.

"Tony Abbott wasn't challenged - there was motion for a leadership spill and that motion did not succeed."

"The Prime Minister asked the party room to focus on the job at hand which is governing for Australia and that is what I'm doing, I'm getting on with my job as Foreign Minister, the Prime Minister is getting on with his job as Prime Minister and we urge our colleagues to focus on the interests and the concerns of the Australian people.

"That's what we were elected to do."

Ms Bishop was asked a further question about the leadership, and whether Australia would support the former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark if she ran for the top job in the United Nations.

"I'll take the easy one first...the leadership", she joked.

"There are a whole range of issues that we must deal with in the run up to the budget, there have been a number of reviews and reports that should lead to government responses in particular policy areas ... so there's a lot of work to be done."

And as for Helen Clark:

"I would need to wait to see who puts their hand up to be considered as an applicant to the Secretary-General's job, of course if an Australian were to indicate that they wanted to be the Secretary-General of the United Nations we would consider that at the time.

"I understand that there is a lot of interest in Helen Clark taking on the role but she has not formally approached Australia for support."

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