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Australian minister quits in pre-election blow to Morrison
[CANBERRA] Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's battle to retain power took a hit on Friday as a senior lawmaker announced he will quit politics at the upcoming election.
Steven Ciobo, in charge of the defence industry portfolio, said in a Sky News interview that he won't re-contest his seat. Sky and the Australian Financial Review also reported on Friday that Defense Minister Christopher Pyne may announce as early as this weekend his intent to resign at the election.
"I feel I have made my contribution," said Mr Ciobo, a former trade minister who has held his Queensland-based seat since 2001. Sky reported that he is relinquishing his defence industry portfolio immediately and that Mr Pyne will straddle both roles until the election.
Mr Ciobo joins an exodus of senior lawmakers, fuelling perceptions that Mr Morrison's government is heading for defeat. His Liberal-National coalition trails the opposition Labor party in opinion polls and is entering a critical period as May elections loom.
Before high-profile former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop announced last month she wouldn't re-contest her seat, three other coalition ministers said they'll leave politics at the election.
At a press conference earlier Friday, Mr Morrison said reports he was about to lose two more Cabinet lawmakers were "speculation" and declined to comment further.
Media representatives for Mr Pyne didn't respond to calls seeking comment.