A spokesperson for Liberal frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has denied he is canvassing backbenchers for support in a potential vote on the leadership.
As some Coalition MPs publicly call for a change, Mr Turnbull, who led the party in opposition before Tony Abbott, has been touted as a potential replacement.
Reports have emerged that two MPs have revealed Mr Turnbull has called them to directly gauge their support.
ABC News has been unable to confirm that.
Mr Turnbull’s office said he was not trying to secure numbers if there was a spill.
However, the spokesperson told the ABC Mr Turnbull had taken calls and made calls to concerned colleagues.
Mr Turnbull’s supporters suspect the report is an attempt by Mr Abbott’s backers to “flush out” the former leader and force him into publicly ruling out a challenge.
Yesterday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – who is also regarded as a possible leader – told Cabinet that she would not challenge Mr Abbott and was not “campaigning” for the job.
Mr Abbott had earlier yesterday sidestepped questions about whether she had refused to give him such a commitment in a meeting on Sunday.
In an interview today, Ms Bishop did not rule out standing for the leadership if the spill was instigated by other party room members.
“I should not be called upon to rule out what I’m clearly not doing,” she told the AFR.
“Seriously, it leaves open the possibility that I might be hit by a bus tomorrow. I’m not dealing in hypotheticals, I will deal with reality.
“I said to the PM yesterday that I am not campaigning for his job, I am not ringing the backbench seeking support, I am not counting numbers. I support the leader, PM Tony Abbott.
“Tony Abbott is the leader, Tony Abbott is the PM, so I am supporting him.”
She also declined to criticise Government MPs who have publicly questioned Mr Abbott’s performance.
Abbott appeals for end to ‘navel gazing’
Earlier Mr Abbott appealed to disgruntled party colleagues to stop “navel gazing” and dismissed former Victorian Liberal premier Jeff Kennett’s claim that his leadership had become “terminal”.
“We have a robust party room, we’ve always had a robust party room and I hope that will always continue,” he told Macquarie Radio.
“I’ve had members of Parliament stand up and tell me to my face in the party room over the years that I’ve got this wrong, I’ve got that wrong, I’m this, I’m that, I’m a so-and-so. And that’s their democratic right.
“What I think everyone in the party room understands is that the last thing we should do is go anywhere near reproducing the rabble of the Labor years.”
Mr Kennett said Mr Abbott’s pain was largely “self-inflicted” and that he had lost the support of the public, including traditional Liberal supporters.
“Sadly the realisation has dawned on most politicians that where the leadership of the party is now is terminal,” he told AM.
“It needs to be resolved as quickly as possible so that the party can move on.”
Mr Abbott dismissed that assessment, saying only that “obviously Jeff Kennett’s entitled to his view”.
While four of Mr Abbott’s backbenchers have publicly demanded their concerns about his leadership be resolved – possibly through a vote at next Tuesday’s party room meeting – senior Cabinet figures have moved to defend his performance.
Treasurer Joe Hockey rejected claims a larger group was preparing to move against Mr Abbott, and said any agitators should come out into the open.
“That’s gossip, I don’t know. If there’s dozens, come out dozens,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Victorian frontbencher Andrew Robb also rejected the suggestion that the leadership row be brought to a head.
“We need to show stability, we need to remove the surprises, we need to show unity,” Mr Robb said.