Ciobo to retire, Pyne expected to follow

Australia

Scott Morrison has not denied he is facing two more resignations from his senior team, amid speculation Christopher Pyne and Steve Ciobo are planning to retire.

The prime minister has already lost frontbenchers Kelly O’Dwyer, Michael Keenan and Nigel Scullion, who will retire from parliament at the May poll.

Mr Morrison was asked if he had spoken to the frontbench pair about their impending decisions.

“I talk to them all the time,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Townsville on Friday.

He did not deny Defence Minister Mr Pyne or Defence Industry Minister Mr Ciobo could be about to quit.

“There’s a lot of speculation going on, isn’t there?” the prime minister said.

Mr Pyne joked about his future with his TV colleague and Labor counterpart Richard Marles on the weekly Sky News show they host together.

“Once I decide to announce my retirement, you’ll be the first to know,” Mr Pyne told his co-host.

Mr Marles praised Mr Pyne for his time in parliament.

“If it is true, yours has been a mighty career and I for one will miss you. I’ll probably get in trouble for saying that, but that’s just how I feel,” Mr Marles said.

Mr Ciobo, the defence industry minister and an 18-year parliamentary veteran, tweeted on Friday he was looking forward to travelling to Indonesia within days to sign a landmark free trade agreement.

But multiple media outlets reported on Friday the Liberal National Party MP is ready to quit.

The Queenslander was demoted from the trade portfolio after the August leadership spill when he ran for deputy.

A Queensland Liberal source told AAP he would be “surprised” if Mr Ciobo retired from parliament as he was currently very active in fundraising for the election campaign.

South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham was asked on Friday if he expected any other frontbench colleagues to resign and he replied: “No.”

Mr Pyne, who has been an MP since 1993, recently revealed how hard he took last year’s spill and said he did not expect he could ever lead the Liberal Party.

It is understood a senior adviser quit Mr Pyne’s office in recent weeks.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the resignation speculation showed the government had given up.

“I think cabinet ministers retiring on the eve of an election shows that this is a government that has given up,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“I say to Australians, if the ministers in the government are giving up on the government, you should too.”

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