Bishop Hits Back Over Leaked WhatsApp Chat Planning Her Downfall

The chat, called 'Friends For Stability', included nine frontbenchers.

Despite polling as the most popular candidate of the three contenders gunning for leadership of the Liberal Party last week, Julie Bishop lost in the first round of voting.

Now, a leaked WhatsApp chat is providing some clue as to how that went down.

Called 'Friends For Stability' -- yes, really -- the conversation consisted of 17 moderates within the party, talking about the upcoming party room meeting.

"[Mathias] Cormann rumoured to be putting some WA votes behind Julie Bishop in round one," wrote Paul Fletcher, leading the conversation.

Source: ABC.

"Be aware that this is a ruse trying to get her ahead of [Scott] Morrison so he drops out and his votes go to [Peter] Dutton.

"Despite our hearts tugging us to Julie we need to vote with our heads for Scott in round one."

Cormann's office later clarified to ten daily that the rumour Fletcher was referring to was "100 percent incorrect".

Bishop said she was aware of claims a WhatsApp conversation had been used to scare her supporters into backing Scott Morrison, with the week of the spill "personally devastating" for several people.

“You would have to ask the individuals involved but it appeared to be a tactic to promote Peter Dutton into the prime ministership, whatever the cost,” Bishop told the West Australian.

The chat -- which was leaked to ABC's Insiders -- also included frontbenchers Simon Birmingham, Christopher Pyne, Kelly O'Dwyer, Marise Pyne, Craig Laundy, Anne Ruston, Melissa Price and Jane Prentice.

Source: ABC.

"Someone should tell Julie," said one person in the chat.

"I have," said Christopher Pyne. "Very respectfully."

Bishop was eliminated in the first round of voting after securing just 11 votes out of the 85-member party room. In the next round, Morrison secured more votes than Dutton to become Australia's 30th Prime Minister.

Bishop has since quit the frontbench, resigning her position as Foreign Minister. However, she said on Sunday that she has not yet made a decision about whether she'll stand in next year's election.

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Meanwhile, the latest Newspoll shows that the leadership crisis has devastated public support for the Coalition, with their primary vote dropping four points to 33 percent in the lowest levels in a decade.

Labor leader Bill Shorten is now the preferred Prime Minister, reversing a 12-point lead by Turnbull as little as two weeks ago.

Australia's former prime ministers have also weighed on last week's utter fiasco.

Kevin Rudd slammed Tony Abbott as the singular distructive force for the Liberals in the past decade, urging the party to follow Labor's footsteps in changing the leadership rules, which provided stability in the post Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.

But John Howard has rubbished these suggestions.

"I don't think changing the rules is a good idea," he said.

"What's the point of bringing in rules if, in any event, they can be set aside?"