Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his belief that he has the full support of his party, after a week of bubbling tensions and doubts about his future as leader.
On Thursday, Mr Abbott said he was “very confident” there wouldn’t be a leadership spill next week and he won’t be moving one himself, despite a handful of Liberal Party backbenchers this week publicly stating they no longer support the PM.
In an interview on Sky News on Thursday night, when asked what he thought about the perception of the government right now, Mr Abbott admitted to having a “difficult couple of months”.
“The (National) Press Club speech was a good start to the year, noting a focus on jobs, families, a stronger economy and a secure nation,” Mr Abbott said.
“That’s what the people want.
“I know that the people don’t want me to dwell on the past, but excite them about the future, and we have a big family package focused on childcare and a tax cut to small business (this year).”
Mr Abbott downplayed comments by senior Liberal figure Arthur Sinodinos on Wednesday that his support for the PM was “not unconditional” and which cast doubt on whether he would be prime minister next week – after Tuesday’s crucial party room meeting.
“I’ve not yet spoken to him, (but) what I’d say is we’ve been a good team and we will be an ever better team, and let’s talk about any issues people may have,” Mr Abbott said on Thursday night.
When quizzed what would happen if there was a vote on his position in the party room on Tuesday, Mr Abbott refused to comment.
“I’m not going to deal in hypotheticals, I don’t expect anything like that to happen because I know this is a cabinet working together for the good of our country,” he said.
He also made his first concrete move to address backbench concerns.
Starting on Monday, the heads of the coalition’s backbench policy committee will get to meet cabinet at least once every two months.
Mr Abbott promised those meetings would give opportunities for “frank and fearless” exchanges of ideas.
Earlier on Thursday, two favoured front-runners for the PM position, Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop, both reaffirmed they would not be challenging Mr Abbott for the leadership role.
There was speculation that the pair were having a meeting on Thursday, however Mr Turnbull quashed those rumours.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) February 5, 2015
Meanwhile on Thursday night, while at a “politics in the pub” forum on the New South Wales central coast, Mr Turnbull was accused by one voter of contributing to the party’s tension.
The Communication Minister rejected suggestions that senior ministers were undermining the prime minister, saying the government remained united.
“Tony has had utter loyalty and consistency from his front bench,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He has had more consistency and loyalty from the front bench than any other Liberal leader in our lifetime.
“There is no tension between Tony and any of his senior colleagues. It is a very, very cohesive team and we are all supportive.
“So he has not been undermined by anybody, by any of his senior colleagues whatsoever.”
Also on Thursday Treasurer Joe Hockey delivered a plea to Coalition MPs to focus on the job and not on the leader.
“Stop engaging in commentary on colleagues. Stop engaging in commentary on the leadership. Focus on fixing the country,” Mr Hockey said.
“Because by God that is the job we have been elected to do.”
– with AAP