David Littleproud says Coalition must ‘take its medicine’ after former ministers booted from frontbench

Two of Scott Morrison’s lieutenants have been demoted in the Coalition’s new frontbench line-up, with the Nationals leader warning the former government needs to “take its medicine” after electoral defeat.

Former employment minister Stuart Robert and former immigration minister Alex Hawke were two of the biggest losers in new Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s shadow ministry announcement on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Robert will not sit in shadow cabinet, instead being appointed as Shadow Assistant Treasurer.

Mr Hawke, a factional ally of the former prime minister in the New South Wales Liberal party, has been punted to the backbench.

Nationals leader David Littleproud rejected suggestions the decision amounted to “knives coming out” for two of Mr Morrison’s right hand men, but conceded there did need to be some consequences after losing government.

“We have to take our medicine, you can’t take it any other way,” Mr Littleproud told Channel Nine.

“We’ve been sent a very strong message, and so we have to think about holding this government to account.

“I think over the next three years, it’s important you have a team that’s renewed, that has generational changes, is thinking about a modern Australia and how we fit in that and the policies we bring forward.”

Mr Robert was one of the most vocal supporters of fellow Queenslander Peter Dutton taking the reins of the Liberal Party, following the election loss last month.

Mr Hawke had been embroiled in a bitter factional dispute within the New South Wales Liberal branch ahead of the election, accused by party rank and file members of delaying preselections in key seats to allow Mr Morrison to hand-pick candidates.

The matter was rushed through the courts in the weeks leading up to the election being called.

The former immigration minister was asked last week whether his actions harmed the Liberals’ chances.

“I think everyone has to take responsibility for what’s happened,” he said.

“Everything I did, I do.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said there were many factors at play in his decision, such as the desire to get more women on to the Coalition frontbench and ensure a spread of roles for members from across the country.

“Alex Hawke was a very good minister, but I saw other opportunities for people that I wanted to bring forward,” he told the ABC.

“I’m conscious that a lot of us have been on the frontbench for a period of time, and we have to bring that talent forward.

“We shouldn’t be afraid of it, we should celebrate it.”

Former Nats leaders make frontbench ‘renewal’
Despite making the case for frontbench renewal, Mr Littleproud defended the appointment of two of his predecessors to the opposition’s shadow ministry.

Former Nationals leaders Barnaby Joyce and Michael McCormack will take up shadow ministries, in veterans’ affairs and international development.

“Barnaby has a great legacy which he has created in the National Party,” Mr Littleproud said.

“It’s important that we draw on the experience of two former deputy prime ministers, both him and Michael McCormack, in making sure that we have a strong culture.

“One which moves away from any angst in it, to draw on their experience and their wisdom in that party room to hold us together.”

Mr Joyce told Channel Seven he was honoured to take up the shadow veterans’ affairs ministry.

“I’m a third generation of people who’ve served in the armed services in my family — both grandfathers, my father and myself,” he told Channel Seven.

“To get the opportunity to look after the people who look after our nation is so vitally important.”