‘Undermining’ blow for Liberals as another woman quits

Ann Sudmalis holds her seat on a margin of less than 1 per cent.

Ann Sudmalis holds her seat on a margin of less than 1 per cent. Photo: AAP

Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis has publicly confirmed she will quit at the next election blaming “branch-stacking, undermining and leaks”.

But she has made clear that her resignation is not the fault of her new leader, Scott Morrison.

“I want to make sure this is not, absolutely not about Scott,” Ms Sudmalis, who holds the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore, told the ABC.

“I truly believe that he’s a prime minister who can ultimately bring our party together.”

The MP blamed machinations in the local Liberal wing of her party.

Ms Sudmalis holds her seat on a margin of less than 1 per cent, raising fears the Morrison government might lose it at the next election – raising the bar for staying in power even higher.

It already faces the Wentworth by-election in Mr Turnbull’s old seat on October 20.

Ms Sudmalis’ departure also further complicates the government’s task of defending itself from accusations it is anti-women.

It followed reports earlier on Monday, backed up by leaks from a private WhatsApp group chat, that as many as 20 Liberal Party women had been locked in heated debate over whether or not to go public with allegations of bullying and intimidation.

Aged care ‘tit for tat’

In question time, Mr Morrison backed away from his outright denials of aged care funding cuts, and instead accused Labor of “hypocrisy” because it had also reduced funding.

He came armed to Monday’s question time with Labor’s second-last budget, from 2013, which cut $1.6 billion from federal aged care funding.

“I don’t want to fight about this issue, I want to fix it,” he said.

It was a markedly different response to the one the Prime Minister gave on Sunday, when he attacked as “lies” claims he had cut $1.2 billion from federal aged care funding in his first budget, in 2016.

The reduction in funding by both sides was made through changes to the ‘aged care funding instrument’, through which the government provides subsidies to aged care providers.

page 184 of paper No.2 from Wayne Swan’s 2012 budget.

Mr Morrison said Labor was playing “childish games of tit for tat in aged care”.

“We can do that all day if you want. You can point to your little fact and I can point to my little fact,” he said.

“But the Australian people have had a gutful of that to-ing and fro-ing and bickering about aged care.”

Despite his pleas for bipartisanship, there was plenty of back and forth on the issue.

The Peter Dutton saga was also raised again, with Labor challenging the Home Affairs Minister to either “stand by his earlier answer” or “correct the record” over leaks that revealed he had not once absented himself from cabinet meetings during the Turnbull government.

This revelation appeared to contradict Mr Dutton’s claim that he had “recused” himself from cabinet discussions about childcare reforms “where that’s been deemed appropriate”. Mr Dutton is the beneficiary of a trust fund invested in childcare centres.

Mr Dutton stood firm. “As I have stated previously, I have always complied with ministerial standards,” he told Parliament.

Labor leader Bill Shorten tried again with the ‘why’ question that has been dogging the Prime Minister – Why isn’t Malcolm Turnbull the prime minister?

Mr Morrison dismissed it as “dust”. “We dealt with this last week,” he said.

He then ended question time on a comical note, by harking back to the rap song his staff posted then deleted last week.

“If Fatman Scoop is watching, I’ll see you at R&B Friday.”

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