Former Labor foreign affairs minister Bob Carr has doubled down on his allegations that Peter Dutton is behind the leaking of explosive texts about the Prime Minister.
The Defence Minister described Mr Carr’s claims as “baseless” on Sunday night – after he tweeted an accusation that Mr Dutton was the serving Liberal cabinet member behind the leak of messages blasting Scott Morrison as a “complete psycho”.
“Bob Carr’s tweet is baseless, untrue and should be deleted,” Mr Dutton tweeted a little over an hour after the allegation was made.
But Mr Carr, who is also a former NSW premier, told Sky News on Monday that he had a “rock solid media source” for his allegations – although he would not reveal who it was.
“Only one way Peter Dutton can win his case: Get another colleague to admit that they were the source for comments about the Prime Minister,” Mr Carr tweeted on Monday morning.
“If not you, Mr Dutton, which of your colleagues? Until then, who has most to gain from undermining further a flailing PM?”
Mr Carr also claimed that Mr Dutton had the numbers in “an increasingly right wing party room”.
The texts were reportedly sent between another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and a so-far-unidentified serving federal cabinet minister. Ms Berejiklian has denied any recollection of the text conversation.
It came amid another messaging scandal engulfing the Coalition – personal texts from Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce describing Mr Morrison as “a hypocrite and a liar”.
The federal government has been in damage control since the texts became public last Friday. Mr Joyce, who apologised to Mr Morrison after the messages were revealed, said he had not worked closely with the Prime Minister at the time he sent them to former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins in March 2021.
“Working one-on-one with him is a completely different scenario, I know him vastly better now,” Mr Joyce told the Seven Network on Monday.
Mr Joyce, the Nationals party leader, said his private views about Mr Morrison had become more positive since he returned as Deputy Prime Minister.
At the weekend, he said he had offered his resignation to Mr Morrison, and it was declined. It is hard to know the practical terms of that offer, as Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce belong to – and lead – different political parties.
On Monday, however, Mr Joyce’s deputy, David Littleproud, said some Nationals believed their leader was “too close” to Mr Morrison, despite the damning texts.
Mr Littleproud said the Nationals had a “transactional” relationship with their senior Coalition partner, and if anything, Mr Joyce had become “too close” to Mr Morrison.
“I can honestly say that the relationship between Barnaby and Scott Morrison is close and in fact some Nats say it is too close,” he told the ABC.
The Nationals were holding a party room meeting in Canberra on Monday afternoon. Mr Littleproud said Mr Joyce shouldn’t offer his resignation but there would be “robust” discussions.
“The Deputy Prime Minister will obviously come in and give us an explanation and set the record straight, but there is no mood for any change,” he said.
“We all go through times in our lives where we are in a darker space because it hasn’t gone our way, but what I would say is that Barnaby is now part of a cohesive team that is delivering for our country.”
The man Mr Joyce replaced as Nationals leader, Michael McCormack, said Mr Joyce had some explaining to do about the leaked texts and indicated he would consider putting his hand up for the leadership if it came up again.
“If enough members of the party came to me and asked me to lead the party, I would seriously consider that,” he told the ABC.
Earlier, Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urged the unnamed cabinet minister who sent the “psycho” texts about Mr Morrison to come forward, but said the fracas was overshadowing other important issues.
“This is such a distraction; the dysfunction and the dishonesty and disunity is meaning this government is paralysed in taking the action that really does concern Australia,” he told the Seven Network.
“These are all distractions from what the Prime Minister’s job is and what the government’s job is.”