A crucial crossbench MP says she will reconsider her agreement with the Coalition after the Wentworth by-election, saying the Liberals must resolve complaints of bullying raised by Liberal women.
Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie has agreed to vote with the Federal Government on motions of no confidence but says that deal is becoming harder to honour as women quit politics citing intimidation and misconduct.
Her warning came as Prime Minister Scott Morrison urged members of the party to remember why they entered politics.
“That’s to serve the Australian people. Not to carry on with stupid games,” he said.
Last night, Ann Sudmalis used parliamentary privilege to accuse New South Wales MP Gareth Ward of branch stacking and undermining her pre-selection campaign ‚ÄĒ an allegation he strongly denies.
Her decision not to contest the next election comes after Victorian MP Julia Banks criticised “widespread, pervasive undermining” of women and after South Australian senator Lucy Gichuhi threatened to name colleagues.
“It certainly makes it more difficult ‚ÄĒ listening to Ann last night she said this is not about Scott Morrison as prime minister but the broader issues within the Liberal Party,” Ms Sharkie told Radio National (RN).
“We are losing three very good women from the House of Representatives and the Liberal Party absolutely needs to address this as a matter of urgency.”
If Ms Sharkie decides to no longer support the Government, then it will present a political headache for Mr Morrison given the Coalition’s slender majority in the House of Representatives.
The numbers in the lower house became even tighter when former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull resigned from Parliament after the spill to replace him as leader.
“What I have said to Scott Morrison is that I will give the Government time until the by-election in Wentworth,” Ms Sharkie said.
“This isn’t just my decision it’s the decision of my community and [they] will have a good look as they get their knees under the table and then I will reconsider the position after the Wentworth byelection.”
But in a statement issued after her RN interview, Ms Sharkie said “internal issues of the Liberal Party will not be a reason for me to change my position with respect to confidence”.
“My continued support on confidence matters is based on seeking good governance and focused entirely on the feedback I receive from my community,” she said.
Crossbench MP Cathy McGowan has told the ABC she would continue to vote with the Coalition on motions of no confidence, as agreed under the Turnbull government.
On the weekend, Ms McGowan told the ABC she hoped a motion of no confidence would not happen and that “the Government really gets its act together”.
Mr Morrison has told reporters he is 100 per cent confident there is no issue with bullying in the federal parliamentary party, suggesting the problem is within the organisation wing.
“I’ve requested the federal director and president bring before the federal executive a program for rigorous and confidential receipt of complaints,” Mr Morrison said.
“We have that process within the parliamentary party ‚ÄĒ it’s the same process that the Labor Party has ‚ÄĒ where our pastoral councillors and the whips manage the welfare of our colleagues.
“I want to be confident that the party organisation under their responsibilities is doing the same thing because that’s where her complaint has gone to.
“That’s where she’s been concerned and I’ll leave that to the party organisation to address.”
Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer has called for that process to be independent, which may involve an external party such as a law firm although that has not been specified.
“I have made recommendations that the party organisation have an independent and confidential process that can assist when and where concerns are raised with the party organisation,” she said last week.