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The Guardian - AU

Scott Morrison confirms he will remain in politics after election defeat

Outgoing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison concedes defeat standing next to his wife Jenny and two daughters
Speaking to 2GB, Scott Morrison said he had ‘no plans to go anywhere’ after his government lost the election, and would continue as member for Cook. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

Scott Morrison has confirmed he has no plans to leave politics after the Coalition’s election rout on 21 May and says he intends to give the new Liberal leadership “every support”.

The former prime minister was asked on 2GB on Thursday how long he planned to “hang around” in politics given Saturday night’s emphatic election result. He said he was looking forward to continuing on as the member for Cook.

“I’ve got no plans to go anywhere, I am going back to the Shire and re-establishing our life back there and getting the girls back into their routine,” Morrison told the 2GB presenter Ben Fordham.

“I’ve just dropped them off at school this morning. I’m looking forward to being a dad again – it’s been a while since I’ve been able to spend as much time as I would like with the family.”

Morrison played down the significance of a defeat that saw the Liberals decimated in their metropolitan heartland, and said it would be up to the new leadership to determine whether or not the party moved to the centre or further to the right.

“Of course I’m disappointed by the result, very disappointed for colleagues who won’t be coming back to the parliament – and there are many issues there,” Morrison said. “But I know the new leadership of the party will get around that and the party will come together.”

He said the Nationals leader, Barnaby Joyce, had told him leaders sometimes lost elections because people wanted to change the curtains. “It’s not the first time the Liberal party has lost an election,” Morrison said. “That happens in various cycles and the party will regroup.”

Peter Dutton – the rightwinger Morrison defeated in the leadership battle in 2018 – has confirmed that he will lead the Liberal party in opposition. Dutton will be able to take the opposition leadership unopposed because the moderate-backed candidate Josh Frydenberg lost his seat on Saturday night.

Dutton and Morrison are not close but the former prime minister said he would be giving the new leadership “every support” because, when you lost a battle, the best thing to do was “accept the result and move on”.

Morrison’s positioning on various issues, including the climate crisis and a federal integrity commission, contributed to the defeat of Frydenberg, the former treasurer. But the former prime minister said he was “obviously devastated that Josh won’t be there”.

“Josh was a huge part of the party’s future and I certainly hope he still is in some way,” Morrison said.

On Wednesday the Liberal moderate Dave Sharma, who lost the seat of Wentworth to a teal independent, said Morrison had “definitely” been a drag on his vote.

Voters had a “visceral” reaction to Morrison, Sharma said, citing reasons including “that he was too religious, they didn’t like that he carried coal into parliament one time, that they didn’t believe his sincerity on climate change … they didn’t like our handling of Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations, and Grace Tame”.

Morrison said on Thursday he believed Labor was on track to govern in majority, and that eventuality was better for the country than a hung parliament.

He also lashed the teal independents who picked up six Liberal seats, saying they had run “very vicious and brutal campaigns – they played things very hard on the ground”.

Morrison said independents had made all sorts of commitments “about how they think they can change everything – well, we’ll just see, won’t we?” The newcomers needed to be held to account if they did not deliver, he said.

He said he was never one to be flattered in victory or pessimistic in defeat, and would not describe his current disappointment as “anguish”. His faith and family enabled him to keep a measured outlook on life.

Though losing a chunk of the Liberals’ progressive heartland to independents could mean the Coalition will struggle in the future to form majority governments, Morrison expressed fatalism about the rebuff from voters: “I leave, not with regrets, but with a great sense of gratitude.”

When he fronted the party faithful on Saturday night to concede defeat, his primary feeling was an abiding respect for democracy, he said. Australia had executed a peaceful transfer of power at a time when people in Ukraine were fighting for their liberty.

“Going back to being a quiet Australian in the Shire – that’s what I’m looking forward to,” he added.

Leading the country had been an honour and a privilege, and a number of the state premiers had been in contact, including Daniel Andrews, who had sent a “lovely message”.

He had also spoken to the former New South Wales Liberal premier Gladys Berejiklian, the Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, the current premiers of NSW and Tasmania, and the former South Australian premier Steven Marshall.