Former Liberal Victorian premier Jeff Kennett has called on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to resign because his leadership is “terminal”.
Mr Kennett, who was Victoria’s premier from 1992 to 1999, said on ABC radio on Wednesday that unless Mr Abbott resigned as leader the Liberal Party faced further state election losses.
“The leadership of the party is now terminal,” Mr Kennet said. “It needs to be resolved as quickly as possible so that the party can move on.”
He said there was no doubt federal issues contributed to the LNP’s heavy electoral losses in Queensland at the weekend where it looks set to lose more than 30 seats and government.
“What worries me more right now for Australia is that the Mike Baird Government in New South Wales, which I consider to be a very good government, extremely well led by a person with good values and very good skills, could be at risk if this debate continues,” Mr Kennett said.
New South Wales votes in a state election on March 28. Victoria fell to Labor after its state election last November.
Mr Abbott was informed of Mr Kennett’s comments while on 2GB radio and maintained his ground, telling host Ray Hadley he would not be calling a spill.
“Obviously Jeff Kennett is entitled to his views but we were elected to end the chaos of the Labor years,” Mr Abbott said. “Every day, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Mr Abbott called on his colleagues to have constructive discussions with him if they thought his proposals were misguided.
“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,” the PM said.
Western Australian MP, Dr Dennis Jensen, made headlines on Tuesday night when he told ABC’s 7.30 program that Mr Abbott had lost his support and needed to be replaced.
“In my view the more quickly you do this, the better,” Dr Jensen said. “I believe that it is necessary that this is brought to a head and lanced.”
Queensland MPs Warren Entsch and Mal Brough also called for the leadership issue to be addressed.
Mr Entsch said he would seek a resolution at a party room meeting in Canberra next Tuesday, while Mr Brough said the prime minister no longer had his “unequivocal support”.
Treasurer Joe Hockey defended Mr Abbott on Wednesday morning, saying no prime minister had the 100 per cent support of their colleagues.
“John Howard sacked his seventh minister halfway through his term… It was a very difficult time and I’m absolutely sure he didn’t at that time have the 100 per cent support,” Mr Hockey said, adding: “We have an obligation to be a united and stable government… Australians do not want to have six governments in eight years.”