Rick Wilson coy on Liberal leadership instability

Liberal MP for O'Connor Rick Wilson (left) and Nationals candidate for O'Connor John Hassell. Photos: Supplied and Jake Dietsch.
Liberal MP for O'Connor Rick Wilson (left) and Nationals candidate for O'Connor John Hassell. Photos: Supplied and Jake Dietsch.

“I think when you pledge allegiance to a Prime Minister and then go actively to undermine him, you have to ask whether he’s acted with integrity or not."

Those were the words of Nationals candidate for O’Connor John Hassell in reference to Liberal MP for O’Connor Rick Wilson, following a period of division and undermining in the federal Liberal Party which has seen a Prime Minister deposed and the party’s standing with the public crumble.

Mr Wilson said while he pledged his support to former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull following the first leadership vote, the situation changed.

“Last Tuesday [August 21], when I spoke to the media immediately after the Liberal Party room meeting, the Prime Minister had just won the spill and I pledged my support for him going forward,” he said.

“However, when 13 ministers resigned over the following 24 hours,  I decided that Mr Turnbull’s position had become untenable.

“I welcome Scott Morrison becoming Prime Minister and believe that ultimately, the Liberal Party is now in a  stronger position to win the next general election.”

Mr Wilson refused to confirm whether he voted for Peter Dutton or Scott Morrison in the ballot which saw Mr Morrison win the leadership 45 to 40. 

He said Prime Minister Morrison and deputy Liberal leader Josh Frydenberg were a powerful partnership who would be able to effectively take on the Labor Party at the next election.

“Our new team represents a generational change,” Mr Wilson said.

“As Treasurer, Scott Morrison has presided over unprecedented economic achievements and I’m pleased that as Prime Minister he will be able to oversee the continuation of those policies.”

Mr Wilson said Western Australians had good reason to be grateful to Scott Morrison.

“It was Scott Morrison who developed the process that has delivered a fairer and ultimately permanent change to the GST allocation for WA, and his election means there is no possibility of that agreement being altered,” he said.

Mr Wilson said Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg would be able to re-unite the party and draw disaffected voters back.

“I look forward to working with the new Prime Minister and his Deputy to take on the ALP and Bill Shorten at the next election,” he said. 

“That’s the fight we have to focus on and I am confident we will now be able to win that fight.” 

Following Mr Turnbull’s Liberal leadership spill victory on August 21, Mr Wilson became one of 43 Liberal members who signed a petition calling for a second leadership spill.

The Liberal Party subsequently voted 45 to 40 in favour of a spill motion, ending Mr Turnbull’s time as Prime Minister. 

Nationals candidate for O’Connor John Hassell said he hoped recent events would provide some stability.

Mr Hassell said he hoped the new Prime Minister would be able to lead the Coalition to a third term, despite Labor currently holding a landslide lead in opinion polls.

“Naturally I’d like to think so but my view is obviously biased,” he said.

“I’m a conservative voter so I’d like to see it happen.”

Mr Hassell said Mr Morrison as treasurer had put together a ‘half’ solution to WA’s low share of the GST.

“We needed to get bipartisan support from the Labor party and we still haven't got that,” he said.

“It’s only $4.7 billion over eight years.

“It’s a very slow grind back up to a level and there's no guarantee we’ll get back up to that level.

“The solution is the proposal the National Party put in place at their federal conference of a 75 per cent floor.”

This story Federal division takes toll on O’Connor race first appeared on The Esperance Express.