Australia's Julie Bishop Quits as Foreign Minister in Fallout

(Bloomberg) -- Australia’s Julie Bishop has resigned as foreign minister and will return to the backbench as the fallout from Friday’s dumping of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister continues.

The 62-year-old stood in the three-way contest to become Liberal Party leader and prime minister after the ousting of Turnbull, but was knocked-out in the first round, gaining just 11 of 85 lawmakers’ votes. Her resignation came hours before new Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday unveiled his first cabinet, with Marise Payne replacing Bishop. Morrison is seeking to restore party unity after a week of tumultuous infighting.

Bishop, who was Liberal Party deputy leader for the past 11-years, said in a statement on Sunday she would remain on the backbench as a “strong voice for Western Australia” and had not decided whether she will contest the next election, due by May.

She was one of the great survivors of Australian politics who served under three different liberal leaders since 2007. The former lawyer, seen as a moderate, was one of the party’s most popular figures with the wider public, according to opinion polls.

Bishop is “the most significant woman in the history of the Liberal Party,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham told ABC TV earlier on Sunday. “She has been an outstanding foreign minister.”

Turnbull on Sunday tweeted that Bishop, a longtime friend, had been Australia’s finest foreign minister and an inspiring role model.

The new foreign minister’s big challenge will be navigating a tricky relationship with China, Australia’s top trading partner. In June, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed bills to crack down on foreign interference after Turnbull said change was needed to stop reported meddling by China and other nations in the nation’s government, media and universities.

On Friday, Australia said it was blocking Huawei Technologies from supplying its 5G network. China’s foreign ministry spokesman said it was “gravely concerned” by the move.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.