One of the first calls from newly elected Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be to Cathy McGowan, and she will be waiting.
The Indi MP’s commitment to supporting the government on issues of “confidence and supply” is on hold until she again goes through negotiations with the new party leader.
“I think the phone will be ringing very quickly,” she said.
“I’ve got a good relationship with (Mr Morrison) and a good relationship with Josh Frydenberg so I look forward to talking to them about their policies, about their way forward and how I can best represent Indi with that new team.”
Parliament will not sit for the next two weeks, but Ms McGowan is expected to travel to Canberra at some stage to start negotiations for her support.
She said she does not have an agenda for those discussions, but welfare payments may be a key topic.
Ms McGowan this week introduced a bill calling for independent assessment of social security payments, with the ability to increase them if needed.
That is is contrast to Mr Morrison’s crackdown on welfare as treasurer.
“Working with social security payments, having enough money to live with dignity is a real issue for the people of Indi and I will absolutely pursue that with the government. With a bit of luck, they’ll listen better than they have in the past,” Ms McGowan said.
“My first priority will be the people of Indi and I won’t be making any deals, I’ll be working on every single bit of legislation as it comes.”
She called on the whole Liberal party to get behind the new leadership.
”There has been such disappointment this week about what’s happened to the Liberal Party,” she said.
“People do expect and want more of their leaders.”
Malcolm Turnbull is the preferred choice of Cathy McGowan for Prime Minister, but even she knows that might be wishful thinking.
“My position is, we have a Prime Minister, Indi has a very good relationship with that Prime Minister and I’d like to see him serve his term out,” she said on Friday morning.
“My optimal position is that Malcolm Turnbull stays as Prime Minister for the next four months and then go ahead.
“Clearly that’s a very ambitious want.
“The country’s going to be faced now with a whole new government, a whole new set of policies and enormous disruption.”
Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison have signalled they will contest a Liberal leadership spill if it occurs on Friday.
Ms McGowan refused to choose between them, saying “I do not prejudge the weather” and would not commit to giving her vote on matters of “supply and confidence”, like she did with Mr Turnbull.
But she has insisted she is not sitting on the fence.
“I’m in a very, very precarious position: I had an agreement with the Prime Minister of Australia, which we negotiated over a very long time on policy, what needs to be done and what the needs of the electorate are,” she said.
“What the Liberal Party is doing in breaking their agreement with their leader, is putting the crossbench - and me in particular - into a very awkward situation.”
The independent said she would not be forced to make a decision in a hurry without consideration, nor make any deals.
“If the Liberal Party changes their leader, they need to come and see me with their policies, with their arrangements and they need to negotiate with me,” Ms McGowan said.
“I’m not prejudging what the Liberal Party will do, heaven knows what they’ll do.”
Discussion are going continuing between the crossbenchers Liberals and the Labor Party.
A new independent candidate will be introduced for Indi when Ms McGowan eventually retires, as a form of succession planning, but even with the possibility of an early election, the MP would not say if that would occur before the next election or in another three years.
She said the lack of declared opposition candidates for Indi from the major parties “absolutely” strengthened her position at the next election.
“I will work with every ounce of my body to keep Indi orange, to keep us an independent electorate,” she said.
“Regional electorates love that.
“They love having the argument, having the debate then they say ‘OK Cathy, you go and do what’s best’ and we’ll continue to argue.”
Ms McGowan was “extraordinarily disappointed” the Liberals chose to spill their leadership, instead of waiting for an election.
“We are now in what I think is a very unfortunate situation, so my call to the Liberal Party is to sort it out really quickly to end the mess,” she said.
“If ever there was a time for the voices of ordinary Australians to be heard, it’s now … Don’t let the major parties get away with, I don’t know what to call it.”
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