News National Hockey could become Abbott’s sacrificial lamb

Hockey could become Abbott’s sacrificial lamb

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The Prime Minister has told reporters outside Kirribilli house this morning that Joe Hockey still has his full support.

Some commentators have suggested Tony Abbott could avert a leadership spill by installing Malcolm Turnbull as Treasurer.

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However, when asked by reporters if Mr Hockey still had his continued support, the Prime Minister replied, “of course he does”.

The Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz rejected reports that he was among ministers campaigning for Joe Hockey to be replaced as Treasurer.

Senator Abetz said he continues to support the entire leadership team, including the Treasurer.

Mr Turnbull said members of the party room needed time to talk to each other directly rather than through the media.

Meanwhile, Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are expected to attend a fundraising brunch in Sydney today, bringing the two most likely challengers for the federal leadership together.

Philanthropist Lady Margot Burrell is hosting the event at her historic multi-million-dollar home in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra, in the heart of Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate.

The brunch was organised well in advance of the current leadership tensions, but Channel 9 reported that Ms Bishop denied a request from Mr Abbott to cancel her appearance alongside Mr Turnbull.

Both ministers are seen as likely contenders for the leadership in the event of a spill at Tuesday’s party room meeting, though neither has formally declared despite calling several colleagues over the weekend.

However, one of Mr Turnbull’s supporters expects the former Liberal leader will put himself forward, if the spill motion succeeds.

Another MP, who is on Mr Abbott’s frontbench, said the statement was accurate.

The frontbencher added that while he had not decided how he would vote in the spill motion, he would most likely back Mr Turnbull if there was a vote for the leadership.

Earlier Mr Abbott said he expected his MPs would support him in a vote on his leadership in a secret ballot and warned them against descending into “some kind of Game of Thrones”.

Flanked by Ms Bishop in Townsville on Saturday morning, Mr Abbott said: “Australia has always been a stable country, with stable government, there was this eruption of instability during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years and the last thing anyone wants is to see a government in this country turn into some kind of Game of Thrones.”

Despite being identified by those agitating for change as a potential replacement for Mr Abbott, Ms Bishop said she would vote against the spill motion.

“I certainly will, I support the Prime Minister, I support the leader, that is the role of the deputy and I’ve proven since 2007 that that’s the role I will play,” she said.

The Liberal Party’s rules do not spell out whether MPs should cast their votes in secret or by raising their hands or voicing their opinions.

A secret ballot could be more dangerous for Mr Abbott because it may see ministers vote against him who would not have if they had to vote in front of their colleagues.

Ministers have told the ABC they wanted a secret ballot because they did not want to be “bound” by principle of Cabinet solidarity to support Mr Abbott’s leadership.

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