Turnbull contradicts Morrison over Indonesia trip after Alan Jones interview
Scott Morrison Turnbull contradicts Morrison over Indonesia trip after Alan Jones interview
Prime minister says Turnbull will not be sent on âmore missionsâ after comments about potential embassy move
Malcolm Turnbull has swiftly and publicly contradicted Scott Morrison over what his brief was for a recent visit to Indonesia, hours after Morri son rebuked his predecessor on talkback radio.
Morrison on Thursday morning accused Turnbull of overstepping while representing Australia at an oceans conference in Bali last week, raising both a free trade agreement with Jakarta and a controversial proposal to shift Australiaâs embassy in Israel â" two sensitive issues in the bilateral relationship.
Turnbull insists he was asked to discuss trade and the embassy issue, but Morrison, in a subsequent statement clarifying his comments, has described the arrangement more passively.
However, the prime minister appeared to backtrack on his radio comments on Thursday afternoon.
While acknowledging Turnbullâs primary purpose in Bali was the oceans conference, Morrison said he was also briefed as the head of delegation about issues âthat could be raised in any direct discussions with the [Indonesian] president, in his role as head of delegationâ.
Guardian Australia understands Turnbull and Morrison spoke at length on Sunday, before Turnbullâs departure to Indonesia, workshopping what Turnbull should convey in relation to the embassy issue and the free trade agreement.
But Morrison on Thursday morning told the broadcaster Alan Jones âthe issues of trade and other things was not really part of his briefâ. He also cautioned Turnbull against further public pronouncements, and said Turnbull would no longer represent Australia at international events.
The public dispute began shortly after Morrisonâs account to Jones. Turnbull took to Twitter immediately to contradict the prime ministerâs statement, including both Morrisonâs and Widodoâs twitter handles in the tweet.
An hour later, Turnbull used social media again to deny he had stoked a public disagreement between the two.
Turnbull, at Morrisonâs request, met Widodo last week, after which he gave a thinly-veiled criticism of Morrisonâs decision to launch a âdiscussionâ about the possibility of Australia recognising Jerusalem as Israelâs capital by shifting its embassy.Malcolm Turnbull to appear on Q&A in first major interview since Morrison became PM Read more
âThe president expressed to me, as he has done to prime minister Morrison, the very serious concern held in Indonesia about the prospect of the Australian embassy in Israel being moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,â Turnbull said after the 30-minute meeting.
âThere is no question were that move to occur, it would be met with a very negative reaction in Indonesia. This is, after all, the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. We have to be very clear-eyed about that, and we have to take into account Australiaâs national interests, and our interests in the region, when we consider a decision like this.â
Speaking to Jones, Morrison said Turnbull would no longer be representing his government at international meetings and intimated he had overstepped his bounds at his Indonesia meeting.
âAs a person who is allegedly an emissary, or was, of the government, have you pulled Mr Turnbull in and indicated that you donât support his repetition of the pronoun âIâ and he was there to represent the views of government , and the views he represented were in contradistinction to your own views as prime minister of Australia?â Jones asked.
Morrison said: âWell I got the report back, from his visit â" he was there to actually attend an oceans conference, the issues of trade and other things was not really part of his brief.
âBut that said, look, Alan, my view, and our governmentâs view about these issues are clear. Thereâre our view. Thatâs what weâre pursuing. And I am always going to act with respect to former prime ministers, regardless of who they are.
âBut I do think the exemplar of previous prime ministers about how they go about things post or outside of politics is obviously John Howard and, on the Labor side, itâs Julia Gillard.
âNow, I donât think there is a lot of profit, Alan, for me continuing to go over these issues. All I know â¦ â
Morrison was interrupted and asked âwill there be more missions for this man to be able to go through and spout his own discredited views?â.
âAh, no,â Morrison said quickly.
âRight,â Jones said.
Morrison was also asked about Turnbull liking a tweet that showed Morrisonâs personal popularity had fallen into negative territory for the first time since taking over the job. The prime minister said he was âaware of it, but I just brush it off, Alanâ.
âGood on you,â Jones replied.
The conservative flank of Morrisonâs party room has not been silent in its disapproval of his decision to send Turnbull to Indonesia.
Tony Abbott led the charge, telling Jonesâs 2GB stablemate Ben Fordham last month before the meeting: âIâve got to say, if I were the prime minister, I would have sent a minister to this conference because only a minister can really speak for t he government.â
Turnbull was criticised by the same sector of the party for failing to do enough to publicly support the Liberal candidate, Dave Sharma, in last monthâs Wentworth byelection, where the independent Kerryn Phelps is likely to be declared the victor within days.
The loss of Wentworth will rob Morrison of his governmentâs one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, six months out from when the next federal election must be held.
The ABC announced on Wednesday Turnbull will appear as the solo guest on next weekâs episode of Q&A.Topics
- Scott Morrison
- Malcolm Turnbull
- Australian politics
- Liberal party
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