Liberal in-fighting back in spotlight as political 'class of 2019' given orientation


On the same day new MPs were given a crash course of Parliament, the events of the 2018 leadership contest that saw Malcolm Turnbull dumped as Prime Minister are being revisited.

Julie Bishop says there remain conflicting views on whether Malcolm Turnbull offered Peter Dutton the role of deputy Liberal leader after the first bitter leadership spill last year.

Mr Dutton says he put his hand up for the leadership in August because he believed he could win the election, which was about nine months away.

After speculation he had lost the confidence of multiple cabinet ministers, Mr Turnbull called a leadership spill on the Tuesday morning, beating sole challenger Mr Dutton 48-35.

"He offered me the deputy leader position," Mr Dutton told Sky News in a new documentary screening on Tuesday night that delves into the bitter battle.

"I said to him, given what had just taken place, that wasn't credible. It wasn't his to gift either."

Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton
Malcolm Turnbull and Peter Dutton

Mr Turnbull denies offering Mr Dutton the role, which was held by the then foreign minister Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop, who declined to be interviewed by Sky News for the program, told AAP in Brisbane on Tuesday she was unaware of the discussion between Mr Turnbull and Mr Dutton.

"There's obviously a conflict over the version of events," she said.

"But everyone knows you can only achieve the deputy leadership of the Liberal party by a ballot of the party room."

A second leadership ballot occurred days later after Mr Dutton was able to get a majority of Liberal MPs to sign a petition calling for a challenge.

Mr Turnbull didn't fight for his role but instead chose to quit parliament, leaving Mr Dutton, Ms Bishop and Scott Morrison to fight it out for the leadership.

The documentary reveals a dinner conversation between Queensland coalition MP Luke Howarth and former NSW coalition MP Craig Laundy may have been the catalyst for the leadership challenges.

Mr Howarth told his colleague at the start of the divisive week he planned to tell Mr Turnbull to resign as leader at the next election.

"I was going to be very clear and maybe suggest that him and Tony Abbott might want to retire at the next election and let new leadership come through," he told Sky News.

"I was thinking of the party and thinking that perhaps it's time for new leadership."

The "heated conversation" rang alarm bells for Mr Laundy, who immediately spoke to his ally, Mr Turnbull.

"I rang Malcolm and ... I explained the nature of the heated conversation, the disagreement, the anger and the passion that Luke had," Mr Laundy said.

"I had a genuine concern that he could stand up the next day and say or do something that would be bad news."

Mr Laundy let Mr Howarth know he didn't think Mr Dutton would be a positive change for the Liberals.

"As much as Duts is a mate of mine, can you imagine how electorally popular he would be in NSW, Victoria and South Australia?"

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison unveiling tough new proposals to strip extremists of their Australian citizenship.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Despite coming out on top at the end of the bitter week, now Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he believed Mr Turnbull could have led the Liberals to victory at the election.

"That was certainly my view," he said.

Re-visiting the events of 2018 cones as the newest federal members of parliament - the "class of 2019" - have come to Canberra for a political bootcamp.

'Incredible part of history'

Speaker Tony Smith welcomed the 27 fresh faces to the House of Representatives on Tuesday morning, congratulating them on their recent election wins.

Newly elected MPs pose for photographs during a new Members' Seminar in the House of Representatives at Parliament House
Newly elected MPs pose for photographs during a new Members' Seminar in the House of Representatives at Parliament House

"It's a real honour to be a member of the House of Representatives," he told them.

"I just want to tell you how rare it is. From the first parliament until the end of the 45th parliament, there were just 1176 members elected ... in 118 years.

"You are part of incredible history."

The new members of parliament will spend the next few days learning about the rules, procedures and standing orders of the lower house.

"As speaker of the house, I urge you to follow them," Mr Smith said.

The veteran Victorian MP told the new politicians the next few days were sure to be seared in their memory.

"You will always be known as the class of 2019. I'm part of the class of 2001, it's a much smaller class now than it was back then."

The House of Representatives class of 2019 includes 16 coalition MPs, nine from Labor and two independents, while 18 new faces are joining the Senate this term, 11 of whom are part of the coalition, five are part of Labor and two are crossbenchers.

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