Prime Minister Tony Abbott has told his coalition colleagues he believes his team is responding intelligently to the demands of government, despite escalating tensions with Indonesia.
Mr Abbott addressed a joint coalition party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, telling MPs and senators that his government is “purposefully, calmly and methodically” getting on with the business it was elected to do.
He said the government had had a good two weeks and was “intelligently responding to the exigencies of the day”, making a fleeting reference to the tensions between Australian and Indonesia over spying claims.
Colleagues praised Mr Abbott’s recent visit to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Mr Abbott told the meeting he has “no interest in taking sides in fights in other countries”, referring to his decision not to raise human rights concerns with the Sri Lankan government.
Mr Abbott said the Labor party was consumed with one question: was Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard a worse prime minister?
He said he had settled on Mr Rudd because he did not even resign from parliament properly, subjecting the people of Griffith to three months without a member of parliament before a by-election can be held.
Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss also spoke about regional infrastructure funding, saying he had no intention of delivering on all Labor’s promises.
However the government would conduct a “proper merit analysis” of individual Labor projects and may proceed with some, he said.
Not surprisingly, Labor leader Bill Shorten has a different outlook on the government’s performance, telling his colleagues the Abbott government is showing signs of arrogance as it pursues a policy of secrecy on major issues.
The opposition was taking the fight to the government, Mr Shorten said, and he praised the early efforts of shadow treasurer Chris Bowen, finance spokesman Tony Burke and immigration spokesman Richard Marles.
Mr Shorten said the government had adopted an approach of secrecy and already was showing a level of arrogance, using “weasel words” in relation to the childcare rebate.
But despite the government being under pressure over debt and asylum seekers, Mr Shorten said the opposition will not try to take advantage of the diplomatic row with Indonesia over spying claims.
“We don’t seek to politicise the issue,” Mr Shorten told a meeting of the Labor caucus at parliament house on Tuesday.
“Strong relationships are important with Indonesia.”
Mr Bowen, in response to questions from east coast MPs about the foreign takeover of GrainCorp, said Treasurer Joe Hockey would need to present a strong case if he wanted to reject the bid on the grounds of national interest.