Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed Barnaby Joyce’s suggestion he should quit if the government’s fortunes don’t improve by Christmas, as Tony Abbott hints at an even shorter deadline.
Commenting on Mr Joyce’s proposal that Mr Turnbull should “do the honourable” thing if the polls don’t improve, Mr Abbott said on Tuesday that the PM should have a sense of his prospects sooner than before the year’s end.
“You would expect the government, with six months to go before the election, to have a sense that it can win,” Mr Abbott told Melbourne radio station 3AW.
“That is not so much a function of the opinion polls but a function of a government which is giving our people something to fight for and voters something to hope for because we have got to believe in ourselves.”
Confirming the next election will be held in the first half of next year, Mr Turnbull brushed off Mr Joyce’s comments, which were made after he notched up his 30th consecutive Newspoll loss on Tuesday.
“I saw what he said, and he’s free to provide his advice,” he said.
“But I can assure you I will be leading the Liberal Party, and the Liberal-National Coalition to the next election.”
Libs not happy with Joyce
The intervention from Mr Joyce provoked a furious response from some Liberals on Tuesday.
“Of all the people to be commenting on leadership issues at the moment Barnaby is probably last on the list given the circumstances of how he lost his leadership,” WA Liberal senator Linda Reynolds told Sky News.
“But there is no challenge, there will be no challenge, Malcolm Turnbull will be the Prime Minister at the next election, my colleagues have made it very clear and it is certainly not in the self interest.”
Mr Joyce, who does not have a vote for the Liberal leadership, was critical of attempts from Liberal MPs, including the Prime Minister, to pressure Nationals over his own leadership.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is considered a top candidate to be next Liberal leader if Mr Turnbull falls, refused to be drawn on her own leadership aspirations.
Ms Bishop dismissed those questions as hypothetical, after Cabinet ministers Peter Dutton, Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison had indicated they did one day hope to be PM.
All three men have pledged their support to Mr Turnbull, Ms Bishop told ABC Radio National.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack declined to directly criticise Mr Joyce for his comments, saying the former Nationals leader was “continuing to do a good job”.
“At the end of the day, Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull, I hope, will take us to the next election,” he told Sky News.
Asked if she agreed with Mr Joyce’s comments, Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie told ABC Radio: “No, I don’t.”
“I understand that what some people want to comment on the Newspoll and what it may mean for Malcolm Turnbull.
“But I think we need to focus on what the Newspoll numbers are telling us about Bill Shorten.”