Julie Bishop has resigned as foreign minister

Stefan Postles/Getty ImagesOutgoing Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop.

Foregin Minister Julie Bishop is stepping down and will move to the backbench.

The former Liberal deputy leader, and the government’s most senior female figure, who contested Friday’s three-way leadership ballot, announced this afternoon that she will not serve in the ministry of new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

But despite earlier reports that she would quit politics at the next election, Bishop said that she’d already been pre-selected to recontest her seat of Perth and had made “no decision regarding the next election”, due by mid-2019.

“I will remain on the backbench as a strong voice for Western Australia,” she said.

Bishop, 62, is said have been angered when she received just 11 of the 85 votes in the leadership contest – with no support from her Western Australian colleagues.

ABC TV Insiders program revealed this morning that a WhatsApp chatroom set up by Turnbull supporters urged everyone to back Scott Morrison, fearing that Dutton supporters would back Bishop in a bid to oust Morrison in the first round of the ballot.

Urban Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher wrote: “[Dutton supporter Mathias] Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA votes behind Julie Bishop in round 1. Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of Morrison so he drops out & his votes go to Dutton”.

When a colleague said Bishop should be informed Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said in the chatroom that he’d told Bishop “very respectfully”.

Cormann, from Western Western Australia, effectively sealed Turnbull’s fate when he defected along with two other Cabinet ministers, on Wednesday afternoon. He says the suggestion in the WhatsApp chat is “100% incorrect”.

Bishop entered parliament 20 years ago and began the Liberal deputy in 2007. She became foreign minister under Tony Abbott.

Her seat of Curtin, in Perth’s western suburbs, is considered a safe Liberal seat with a margin of 18.2%.

If she makes the decision to leave politics in the coming days or weeks, her departure will add to the Coalition’s woes, as she was not only electorally popular and seen as one of the government’s better performers, she was also a significant fundraiser for a party that now looks increasingly cash-strapped as it heads towards an election.

Fairfax Media revealed yesterday that NSW Liberal President Phillip Ruddock is deeply concerned that several local branches are well behind on their fundraising efforts. Her departure comes the party’s biggest donor, former PM Malcolm Turnbull, prepares to leave parliament in the coming days.

New Prime Minister Scott Morrison is due to announce his new ministry on Sunday afternoon.

* Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story, published before Julie Bishop issued her statement, incorrectly suggested she was quitting politics.

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