Former prime minister Tony Abbott believes it’s the duty of his successor Malcolm Turnbull to keep the Liberal Party together in the face of splinter fears.
Meanwhile, conservative voices within the party, such as Eric Abetz, are warning there are tough questions for the coalition in the new year, as it deteriorates in the polls.
Outspoken senator Cory Bernardi is reportedly preparing to leave the Liberal fold and create his own Australian Conservatives party, while Nationals MP George Christensen says he’s loyal now but might not always remain inside the tent.
Mr Abbott has written to Liberals telling them a split would doom the party, saying: “The first duty of the leader is to keep the party together”, according to The Australian.
Government ministers have been quick to brush off concerns about backbenchers abandoning the party.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan insists the Liberal Party is the home of conservative ideas in Australia, while Greg Hunt has reminded colleagues they were elected under the party banner to serve a full term.
But former frontbencher, Senator Abetz believes there are tough questions for the party after it “bled” votes to forces like One Nation, from its natural core constituency.
“I don’t think it is acceptable for us to say ‘business as usual, everything is hunky dory’,” he told ABC radio on Friday.
“Why is it that since the election our position has deteriorated and I think the reason is that we are not reflecting the aspirations of the Australian people.”
Senator Abetz nominated household budgets, job security and national security as key issues for the coalition to focus on next year.
“It is not marriage, it is not republic,” he said.
Changes to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act’s section have also become a mainstream issue and should also be a priority in the new year, the former minister said.
He cited the rule of politics that “disunity is death”, urging people to – if at all possible – work within the party and system to make it work.