Leadership hopeful Scott Morrison could reportedly become the new Treasurer if the Liberal Party suffers in the looming West Australian by-election.
Two unnamed cabinet ministers have told Fairfax Media a loss or narrow win in the lower house seat of Canning on September 19 could result in Joe Hockey being “thrown to the wolves”, Fairfax Media reported on Monday.
“They are considering dumping Hockey post-Canning and believe that will get them to Christmas,” one minister was quoted as saying.
One of the ministers told Fairfax Media that Mr Hockey would be shifted to another portfolio after a poor Canning result to shield Mr Abbott — who is also unpopular with voters.
A Liberal frontbencher refuted the story on Monday morning.
“Joe Hockey is an integral leader in the government and has done such a great job on budget restoration, on job creation, on setting the government up with a policy framework that will take us through the next election and beyond,” Assistant Education Minister Simon Birmingham told Sky News.
The New Daily previously reported a loss in Perth would “almost certainly” result in the end of Mr Abbott’s prime ministership. The Liberals won Canning by a margin of 11.8 per cent at the last election, but polls suggested a large swing against the party could occurs.
Political commentators pointed to Mr Hockey’s inability to generate much media interest in planned personal tax cuts to combat bracket creep as evidence of his unpopularity.
On Sunday, Labor leader Bill Shorten mocked the Treasurer’s cuts as ill-thought-out.
“You just can’t help but wonder, did he get half way through a Readers’ Digest article on income tax cuts on an aeroplane trip somewhere and say, ‘that’s something I’ll talk about to the national media’,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Brisbane.
It was Finance Minister Mathias Cormann who defended the proposal.
“That is our objective to take to the next election a tax reform package,” Senator Cormann told Sky News.
“If you reduce revenue you need to make that up from other sources.”