Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo expected to quit parliament | Australia news
“I talk to them all the time,” he said, when asked by reporters if he had spoken to Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo.
“You’re speculating. You wouldn’t expect me to respond to speculation.”
Both Pyne and Ciobo are expected to announce their retirements from federal politics this weekend.
Asking if the news was wrong, journalists were met with silent confirmations.
If the news is confirmed, Pyne and Ciobo will be leaving parliament come the 2019 election, regardless of the result, bearing out long-held suspicions the Morrison ministry had not finished shedding ahead of the next election cycle.
After ministers Kelly O’Dwyer, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion all called time on their federal political careers last month, attention turned to Julie Bishop, who had spent the time since the leadership spill using the language of the non-committal – only confirming she was the preselected candidate for Curtin and intended on contesting the election.
The spotlight then turned to the other discontents known to be lurking on the frontbench, of which Pyne and Ciobo headed the list.
For the past few months, Pyne has used the same language, refusing to buy into the speculation but sidestepping any committals that would put it to bed.
In Queensland, where political circles are tight but gossip is loose, Ciobo’s future plans were lunch fodder – if the Moncrieff MP could find a suitable private sector role, he would be out.
Frustration with local colleagues and career progression after 17 years in the parliament are what those close to Ciobo have put his final bow down to.
The Indonesian free trade deal is expected to be signed in the coming weeks, which, as trade minister, was one of Ciobo’s crowning achievements.
His demotion in the Morrison ministry to minister for defence industry, while Stuart Robert was re-installed to the frontbench after his years in the wilderness, compounded by losing the deputy Liberal party leadership battle to Josh Frydenberg, were given as reasons from his colleagues for hastening his decision.
“He’s young and he still has a lot of career left,” one Queensland Liberal said.
“He’s got time to make his mark elsewhere. In terms of career progression, where else does he have to go here? It’s been almost two decades.”
Pyne has also been coy on his future plans. Asked by his on-air Sky News presenting partner, Labor’s Richard Marles, to confirm his future on Friday, the defence minister would only answer “why?”, and questioning whether it would help lift ratings “from 12 viewers to 25”.
Having been elected before the rules changed in 2004, both Pyne and Ciobo are entitled to parliamentary pensions.
Pyne, first elected in 1993, would be entitled to just over $220,000 a year, or a lump sum of more than $1m. Ciobo, who won his first election in 2001, qualifies for an annual payment of just under $190,000, or a lump sum of just under $1m.
The safe, but under pressure, seat of Moncrieff on the Gold Coast opens up more opportunities for Queensland LNP candidates who have felt frustrated at a state level, in the one-chamber parliament.