Australia

Bishop 'our finest' foreign minister, PM says in final speech

Malcolm Turnbull describes Julie Bishop as Australia's finest ever Foreign Affairs Minister. Source: AAP

Malcolm Turnbull has heaped praise on deputy Julie Bishop in his final press conference as prime minister, as has his successor as leader, Scott Morrison.

Malcolm Turnbull has described his loyal deputy Julie Bishop as Australia's finest ever foreign minister.

Mr Turnbull, who was overthrown as prime minister in a leadership ballot on Friday, singled out Ms Bishop for particular praise during his final press conference.

"Above all I want to thank Julie Bishop," he told a large throng of reporters, staff and colleagues gathered in the prime minister's courtyard inside Parliament House.

"She is a very dear friend - we've been friends for over 30 years.

"She's been an extraordinary foreign minister - I would say our finest foreign minister - and she has been a loyal deputy and just a great colleague and friend."

Ms Bishop served as deputy to Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Abbott and Brendan Nelson over more than a decade.

The West Australian surrendered her position on Friday to enter a three-way contest for the top job and was knocked out in the first round, with Scott Morrison ascending to the prime ministership.

She will be succeeded as deputy by former environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg.

In his first press conference after seizing the leadership, Mr Morrison talked up the "rock star" policy and political contributions Ms Bishop has made.

"She has been an amazing contributor and a driver of foreign policy, and an advocate for Liberal values from one end of this country to the other, and one end of this world to the other," he told reporters.

"I will be talking to her, obviously, about what role she would like to play in the government we will now seek to put together."

However there is speculation Ms Bishop will decline a ministry and see out the term on the back bench.

She entered the leadership race as an outsider - hugely popular in the electorate but not in the party room.

Yet with her two rivals competing for conservative votes, Ms Bishop was considered a chance to snatch an unlikely victory by winning over the moderates in her ranks.

There was consideration she could also appeal to MPs in marginal seats at serious risk of being wiped out at the next election under a government led by Peter Dutton.

"Australians must have confidence that the government is focused on the daily challenges of their lives and their concerns and their interests," Ms Bishop said before the contest.

"I am optimistic about the potential of our people and will commit all my energy and experience to ensure the best years of our nation lie ahead of us."

She reportedly told colleagues ahead of the bout she would not serve as "another man's deputy".

Rather than directing her allies to drum up the numbers she needed, Ms Bishop phoned each and every Liberal MP directly.

Ms Bishop, who may retire from politics, would have been the first West Australian since John Curtin - who died 73 years ago - to lead the country.

The 62-year-old joined federal politics at the 1998 election as member for Perth seat of Curtin.

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