TONY Abbott has made light of the latest round of leadership speculation as recycled rubbish.
Mr Abbott is facing reports that a majority of Liberal MPs and senators now want to dump him, with Julie Bishop and Malcolm Turnbull touted as challengers.
But, speaking to reporters at a Clean Up Australia Day event on NSW’s south coast, the prime minister played down reports he could face another leadership spill this week.
“This is Clean Up Australia Day, and I’m just not going to do anything but recycle the rubbish,” he joked.
“And that’s what’s happening, we’re just recycling rubbish today.”
“Frankly, I think the people of Australia are sick of the insider obsessions of people in Canberra,” he said.
Earlier today, Josh Frydenberg said dissident Liberals will never be satisfied with Tony Abbott’s leadership.
The Assistant Treasurer this morning said the Prime Minister would never satisfy those MPs, even if he won a Nobel Prize or delivered a stirring speech in the mould of Abraham Lincoln.
Asked if there would be a leadership spill this week, Mr Frydenberg said: “I hope not.”
“Ever since the formation of the Liberal Party by Sir Robert Menzies in the mid-1940s we’ve never ever thrown out a prime minister in his first term,” he told ABC’s Insiders.
“John Gorton came to the leadership in 1968. In 1969 he won an election. In 1971 he used his own vote to take himself out of the leadership. Look what happened; we got Gough Whitlam in 1972; that wasn’t a good outcome for the Liberal Party.
“There’s certainly going to be members of my own side who want to see a change in leader, but I don’t think anything the Prime Minister does will convince them that he should stay in the role. I mean, If he delivered the Gettysburg Address, if he won a Nobel Prize, they’d still take the position they’d want a change in leader.
“My view though … is that’s a minority view.”
The Sunday Telegraph reports the Foreign Minister would stand against Malcolm Turnbull in the event of a leadership spill.
Trade Minister Andrew Robb could also stand, reportedly telling MPs that Communications Minister Turnbull is “not conservative enough”, the report reads.
Mr Frydenberg said: “Julie Bishop has said that she supports the Prime Minister like we all do, and I don’t want to go down that path because I’m very confident that Tony Abbott has the support of the party room.”
Mr Turnbull warned continuing leadership instability was detracting from the NSW Coalition’s re-election campaign.
“The big political question in the next four weeks is the NSW state election,” he said.
“Federal issues are really important, of course they are, but for the next four weeks the most important thing is getting Mike Baird re-elected.”
Ms Bishop dismissed the continued leadership speculation as hypothetical.
“The prime minister has not been challenged. There was a spill motion that didn’t succeed, and what we’re doing is focusing on governing,” she told Network Ten.
‘Budget work to be done’
The Weekend Australian reported on Saturday that Mr Abbott is expected to dump the controversial $5 co-payment for Medicare services this week.
“We’ve learned the lessons of the first budget and I think there’s a lot more work to be done,” Mr Frydenberg says.
“Around the Medicare co-payment the big lesson is you need to consult more broadly with the relevant stakeholders in the industry, get their support before going forward with a major change.
“I’m not going to pre-empt any decision that’s been made this week but it’s clear from what the Prime Minister said that there will be significant changes around those health decisions.”