PM Turnbull says Macfarlane ousted for 'younger people'

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull says former Industry and Science Minister and Liberal Party defector Ian Macfarlane was dumped from the front bench to make way for newer and younger people.

In his first long-format interview since the public spat where Mr Macfarlane jumped ship to the Nationals, and seemingly prompting Mr Turnbull to cancel a visit to Toowoomba, the Prime Mininster gave insight into why he dumped Mr Macfarlane from the ministry.

The reshuffle came after Mr Turnbull knifed then-PM Tony Abbott in September. Mr Macfarlane backed Mr Turnbull and had hoped to be reappointed as minister. When he wasn't he spoke about retirement.

Now in an interview with ABC's 7.30 Report Mr Turnbull has said the Groom MP wasn't sacked because he'd been a poor performer.

"It was because I wanted to make room for new people, for younger people, for more women. There are only so many places in the cabinet and you cannot bring new talent up unless some of the older talent moves on," he said.

"I give the example of Gail Kelly, former CEO of Westpac. Gail could have run Westpac for another decade or two, but she moved on because other people had to move up. So you've got to have succession."

Mr Turnbull maintained the Coalition was not divided despite the public fued.

"There some are issues to be sorted out with the Liberal National Party, or the LNP in Queensland, and that's - these internal party matters, I will leave - I think we should keep internal to the Coalition, but the Coalition is very strong."

He refused to answer questions on whether it was a betrayal that he wasn't informed about discussions regarding Mr Macfarlane leaving the Liberals to join the Nationals.

Interviewer Leigh Sales shut down the Prime Minister when he tried to ask a question.

He had been trying to sidestep questions on Mr Macfarlane's defection.

"I ask the questions on this program," Ms Sales said.

Mr Turnbull responded by saying: "Do you think they're more interested in innovation and jobs?

Ms Sales said: "I'll tell you what I think they're interested in. One of your colleagues resigning from the Liberal Party to join the National Party, Ian Macfarlane. A number of your colleagues have criticised him, including the Attorney-General George Brandis, who says it's left a bad taste in people's mouth. How do you feel about it?" she said.

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