‘Basic’ query ScoMo can’t answer
IT'S been the question that everyone has been asking but Scott Morrison has still not explained - why did the country need a new prime minister?
In his first interview on 7.30 as Prime Minister, Mr Morrison was confronted with the "basic, obvious question to which Australians are still waiting for an answer - why did the Liberal Party change prime ministers?".
But Mr Morrison seemed unable to enlighten the public saying: "I didn't seek a change to the prime ministership".
Mr Morrison, who took over the top job after a leadership spill saw Malcolm Turnbull toppled, said he only contested the position after the Liberal Party had made the decision they were longer going to support Mr Turnbull.
"I stood up to continue the great work that we've been doing over the last five years, and I sought and gained their confidence to do just that."
7.30 host Leigh Sales pressed Mr Morrison further, saying even though he didn't initiate the spill, it was up to him to articulate why a change was necessary.
"Australians need an explanation as to why you had to change course," Sales said.
"You have to understand that Australians find it perplexing and they would like an answer."
She added: "What was wrong with Malcolm Turnbull's leadership?"
Mr Morrison reiterated: "I didn't oppose it".
"As John Howard always said, the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party is the gift of the parliamentary party," he said.
"They have chosen to make that change. In that context I put my hand up.
"I'm now leading the party and having been given that great honour and that great responsibility, I'm getting on with it."
The Prime Minister accepted the process had been "deeply troubling" to Australians but what they wanted to know now was "where are we going?".
When asked what the difference was between the Morrison government and the Turnbull government, the Prime Minister acknowledged that there was an "absolute continuity".
"I stood with Tony Abbott when we stopped the boats. I stood with Malcolm Turnbull as we balanced the Budget and now as we go forward we continue to keep our economy strong, keep Australians safe," he said.
Mr Morrison said he had a strong focus on how the government needed to bring the country together.
"I have always been very troubled by what I've been seeing with the politics of envy. I've got a very strong view about what fairness means in this country.
"If you have a go, you get a go but it also means you have a safety net where Australians look after their mates. I believe that people should be seeking to make a contribution, not take one."
Sales challenged Mr Morrison on whether his explanation about the leadership was the sort of "candid communication and authenticity" he's previously said was needed to address Australians' disillusionment with politicians.
Mr Morrison said: "When placed in command, take charge. How's that for candid? That's what I'm saying and that's what I"m doing."
GICHUHI WASN'T BULLIED OVER LEADERSHIP SPILL
The party has faced allegations of bullying around the leadership spill but Mr Morrison said there were no "gender specific actions" related to the "very intense lobbying which is fairly normal in the political process".
Mr Morrison said he had spoken to Senator Lucy Gichuhi, who has backed down from threats to reveal the names of bullies, and that she had made it clear she was not bullied by anyone in Canberra in relation to the leadership spill.
He said there had been no names provided to him about who the bullies were, although there were other issues that related to "the party divisions and how things are dealt with there".
Sales asked Mr Morrison whether he would support the introduction of a quota to get more women into the parliamentary Liberal Party.
"No, that's a matter for the organisational wing of the Liberal Party but it's never something I have supported," Mr Morrison said.
"I believe in any political organisation, it should be a matter of one's own effort and exertion and credibility and merit."
He noted previous training programs for women on how to win preselections and adjust to parliamentary life in 1996 led to a record intake of women, and that supporting women through the process was what Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer was looking at.
WHAT IS OUR CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY?
Sales also tried to get to the bottom of Mr Morrison's climate change policy.
She questioned Mr Morrison why climate change wasn't Australia's top priority given the government signed a joint statement at the Pacific Islands Forum that declared it was the "single greatest threat" to the Pacific region.
"I have no doubts about the fact we're going to meet our targets," Mr Morrison said.
When asked what the government's climate policy was, Mr Morrison would only say "reducing emissions by 26 per cent".
Mr Morrison has previously told the Weekend Australian that Mr Turnbull's policy, the National Energy Guarantee, was "dead". Concern over the policy appeared to be one of the triggers for the leadership spill.
Mr Morrison noted the Emissions Reductions Fund had been a key component of achieving reduction targets but Sales noted the fund was not topped up in the last Budget, "it will run out of money", she said.
Sales found it even harder to get a straight answer on whether emissions reduction would be part of future energy policy.
Mr Morrison stuck by the statement that emissions reduction targets had been set for four years, "there's been no change and we're not changing it".
But as Sales noted: "There's a difference between having targets and policies to reach those targets".
"Every expert would tell you climate policy influences energy investment and therefore prices," she said.
But the Prime Minister's answer to her repeated questioning was simply to deny anything had changed.
"We haven't changed our emissions policy. It's the same policy we had a month ago, it's the same policy we have now."