At a question-and-answer session following the address, the audience was asked to “confine your questions to the speech and what we are discussing here at the conference today”.
His minders told reporters he would not be available for questions.
A recent Seven News ReachTEL poll found Turnbull was the top choice to lead the coalition, with more than 44.6 per cent of respondents backing him with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on 31 per cent and Abbott languishing at 18 per cent.
Mr Abbott has recently drawn criticism for his decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip, prompting concerns he’s lost touch with the Australian public.
He admitted the move was a “stuff up” and has promised to consult more widely on such decisions in the future.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been approached by Liberal MPs to spark a leadership challenge, but both have refused.
Senior government figures have publicly thrown their support behind the prime minister, who yesterday took the credit for the success of high-performing ministers.
“One of the reasons why so many members of the team are able to perform so well is because they have got a very good captain,” Mr Abbott said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey issued a warning to his colleagues, reminding them to focus on the job at hand.
“Everyone’s entitled to a view but I would just say to people: we do not want to become a carbon copy of a bad Labor government, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government,” he told reporters.