Prime Minister Tony Abbott has arrived in France adamant he’s not being undermined by his party back home, dismissing claims of government disunity as gossip.
However, he admits he’d be “amazed” if some of his senior cabinet ministers didn’t harbour leadership ambitions.
Mr Abbott on Thursday touched down in Paris ahead of Friday’s D-Day commemorations, where he will join fellow world leaders in marking the 70th anniversary of the World War II landings in Normandy.
Among Mr Abbott’s first engagements were a tea party with the Queen and a meeting with French business leaders on Thursday night.
But domestic matters dominated talk when he fronted the Australian media upon his arrival in the French capital.
Asked about recent suggestions of leadership turmoil in the wake of the federal budget, including accusations Malcolm Turnbull was vying for the top job, Mr Abbott insisted the government was stable and focused on its job.
“I think there’s been a bit of over-excited chatter in recent days,” Mr Abbott told reporters.
“We are a good and strong team that’s been in government for less than nine months and all of us are getting on with it.”
Conservative critics have accused former Liberal leader Turnbull of actively undermining the prime minister, but Mr Abbott said he had full faith the communications minister was loyal and doing his best.
“Malcolm and I have known each other for a very long time and we have a very good relationship,” Mr Abbott said.
“… I am very pleased to have Malcolm as a senior member of my government and I know that Malcolm is very pleased to be a senior member of the government.
“Occasionally people try to make mischief. That’s life when you’re in public life.”
Asked if he was worried that his ministers may harbour leadership ambitions, Mr Abbott said: “I’d be amazed if they didn’t.
“I think ambition is almost a prerequisite for going into parliament.
“There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious but right at the moment our ambition is for a better country.”
Mr Abbott was to join other Commonwealth leaders at a tea party hosted by the Queen at the British embassy.
He met the Queen when she visited Australia in 2011.
“I’m not sure how long how much time I’ll get with her (tonight)… but she’s a remarkable woman,” Mr Abbott said.
He would then meet with 30 representatives from some of France’s biggest companies in his bid to spread the message that Australia is open for new investment.
Mr Abbott will join French President Francois Hollande and other heads of government at the British D-Day services at the Bayeux Cathedral and cemetery, and the international ceremony at Sword Beach, Ouistreham, on Friday.
Following his visit to France, which ends of Saturday, Mr Abbott will travel to Canada and the US.