The Abbott government is facing another damaging leak, this time the content of emails which reveal a major rift in the Liberal Party executive.
The two emails were written by the party’s federal treasurer Phil Higginson and sent to other members of the federal executive over the weekend.
Excerpts published by Fairfax Media indicate Mr Higginson intends to resign over transparency and governance concerns, and feeling “overwhelmed by the sheer vitriol”, within the party.
Speaking on breakfast TV on Wednesday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott played down the emails.
“I’m aware of that particular storm in a teacup, but the treasurer signed off on the party accounts,” he said.
“I’m not quite sure what the fuss is over.
“If he wants to resign that’s a matter for him.”
Mr Higginson said in the letter he felt unease at his “good friend” Prime Minister Tony Abbott being “brought down this way”.
He also points to the husband and wife duo of Brian Loughnane, as Liberal Party Federal Director, and Peta Credlin, as Mr Abbott’s Chief of Staff.
This was the “most serious current dilemma” facing the party, he wrote, and “how this party ever let a husband and wife team into those roles” was beyond him.
“A managing director would never allow his executive assistant to be the wife of the chairman,” Mr Higginson wrote.
He said the blurring of the line between the party’s political and organisational wings contributed to “wooden and unreliable” internal communication and “dare I say it, retribution” for those highlighting problems.
Mr Higginson also complained of “stonewalling and obfuscation by management” on expenditure information, which had delayed his reconciliation of the party’s 2013/14 accounts until this month.
He also highlighted concerns over financial reporting standards within the party, and said he would stand down from the treasurer’s role before June.
The emails are described by Fairfax as the culmination of a long-running stand-off between Mr Higginson, Mr Loughnane and federal Liberal Party president Richard Alston.
Fairfax says Ms Loughnane’s supporters point to Mr Higginson’s overseas travel in late 2014 as a factor in the delay, and that Ms Credlin and Mr Alston also dispute many of his claims.