SUSSAN Ley says her return to the ministry was a surprise and she did not vote against Malcolm Turnbull remaining as prime minister because of “sour grapes”.
Speaking directly to The Border Mail for the first time since Scott Morrison became Liberal Party leader and PM on Friday, Ms Ley said she had lost faith in Mr Turnbull for a variety of reasons.
“It comes down to many things, I don’t want to pick over the entrails,” she said.
“Put it this way I’m very confident we are now in a much stronger position to win government at the next election.”
The member for Farrer rejected the suggestion she backed an initial challenge by minister Peter Dutton last week due to ill-will related to her loss of a Cabinet position under Mr Turnbull last year after questions over her travel entitlements.
“It’s not sour grapes at all,” Ms Ley said.
“I had lots of very constructive conversations with the prime minister in the year, 18 months, following that.
“We met, chatted, exchanged views on different occasions and it was very convivial.
“If it was sour grapes I would have stopped speaking to him long ago.”
Ms Ley said becoming Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories was a delightful surprise.
“It’s an opportunity for me to be vocal about the things that are important to regional communities,” she said.
Ms Ley was speaking after a farmers’ rally in Deniliquin where a motion was put unsuccessfully calling on her to become a cross bencher to ensure irrigators received more water.
Past Deniliquin Ute Muster chairman Russell Tait put the motion with backing from Berrigan irrigator Graeme Pyle, who told Ms Ley “we would love you forever” if you were a cross bencher.
Ms Ley rejected the idea, citing Cory Bernardi shifting allegiance after being elected as a Liberal Party senator as a reason why she “does not like turncoats”.
She later told The Border Mail she did not believe she could throw the opportunity the Liberal Party had given her “back in their face” and voters “do not like it when a leopard changes its spots”.
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