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Associates of Scott Morrison have been sounded out by a major UK company in the defence sector about a senior role for the former prime minister, who could quit federal politics as soon as July.
Morrison’s exit from politics has been widely expected, with six colleagues telling this masthead last month he was expected to quit at some point between the May 9 budget and the end of 2023.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison could leave politics as soon as July.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Two sources familiar with Morrison’s thinking, who asked not to be named so they could speak freely, said the former prime minister was in the frame for a job that would see him work for a company in the UK defence sector.
“He won’t go until it is locked in but it is fair to say he is actively seeking life after politics,” one of those sources said.
“It’s in the AUKUS space based out of the UK.”
Some members of the parliamentary Liberal Party had expected Morrison to quit as soon as next week, during the May budget sitting week, but both sources said that was likely too soon for the job offer to be finalised.
“I tend to think he will back there [in parliament] in June and after that, that will be it,” one of the sources said, adding Morrison was expected to give a valedictory speech on the floor of the parliament.
“He won’t go until he has something else to go to. He’s more relaxed about staying but he’s ready to go. It has to be the right thing.”
It is understood that associates of Morrison are in talks with corporations interested in the former prime minister’s AUKUS insights.
The job offer is yet to be finalised but if it is made – and Morrison accepts it – it would require the former prime minister to commute to the United Kingdom about once a month, with his family remaining in Sydney.
The second source said that “everyone is waiting for Scott to move forward and say what he is doing”.
“The expectation is it will be after budget week [that he quits], not in budget week.”
Contacted for comment, Morrison said: “I’m very engaged with things in my local electorate and enjoying being back in my local community”.
The former prime minister joined the advisory board of the US-based Hudson Institute’s China Centre last December and is arguably best known overseas for the landmark AUKUS security pact between the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, which will deliver Australia nuclear-powered submarines next decade.
Once Morrison quits, one of the two sources said, “he will follow the Julia [Gillard] model, not the Kevin [Rudd], Tony [Abbott] and Malcolm [Turnbull] model” of former prime ministers, suggesting he will leave public life behind rather commentating regularly on daily politics.
Morrison’s exit would trigger a byelection in the seat of Cook, which Morrison held with a two-party preferred margin of 62.4 per cent at the 2022 federal election.
The federal opposition lost the Victorian seat of Aston back in April but it had held that seat in 2022 by a slender margin of 2.8 per cent. The Liberals are more confident that, even allowing for a dip in support because of the former prime minister’s exit, they will be able to hold Cook.
Former NSW attorney-general Mark Speakman had been considered one of the two front-runners to stand for preselection in Cook.
But now Speakman has become NSW state opposition leader, Sutherland Shire mayor Carmelo Pesce is now well-positioned to win a rank-and-file preselection.
Former state MP Melanie Gibbons and Gwen Cherne, an advocate for veterans and war widows, are two other names that have been discussed as potential candidates for preselection.
The former prime minister entered politics at the November 2007 federal election and rose rapidly through the ranks. He served on the front bench as shadow minister for housing and then shadow minister for immigration.
Upon the election of the Abbott government in 2013, Morrison was appointed Immigration Minister and was the face of the former government’s policy of stopping asylum seeker boats. He was promoted to social services minister, then treasurer and became prime minister in August 2018.
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