Julie Bishop has confirmed her most senior staffer was at a meeting of Liberal MPs plotting the downfall of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in September.
But the Foreign Minister says she thought Murray Hansen was just “going to a drinks” at the home of government backbencher Peter Hendy.
“I did not know who would be attending the meeting,” Ms Bishop told reporters on Thursday. “When I learned who was there on the Monday morning and when cabinet ministers came to see me, I made the first opportunity available to see the prime minister.”
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The revelation about Mr Hansen’s participation in the meeting is contained in a new book, Battleground, by political author and academic Wayne Errington and The Australian columnist Peter van Onselen.
Ms Bishop rejected suggestions she had questions to answer about her role in the lead-up to the dramatic dumping of Mr Abbott. “Nothing that has come out in this story contradicts anything that I have said publicly,” she said in Canberra. “It completely aligns with what I have said about this matter from the outset.”
It was part of her job to be in touch with backbenchers “either through my staff or personally”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says Ms Bishop has his “110 per cent confidence” after the revelations.
Asked how many times he’d talked to Ms Bishop before the spill he said: “Politicians speak to each other all the time. That’s why you have parliament, to bring people together and they talk.”
He continued: “They talk about their political fortunes, and they talk about policies and they talk about personalities, so it’s no revelation to know that politicians are talking or that Julie and I are talking. We are as ministers – whether in Tony’s government or my government or indeed in the Howard government – we are always talking, that is what parliament is about. It’s a place for talking.”
Mr Turnbull spoke to reporters in Jakarta before his meeting with President Joko Widodo.