PM Tony Abbott speaking to locals in Yeppoon. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin
PM Tony Abbott speaking to locals in Yeppoon. Photo Allan Reinikka / The Morning Bulletin Allan Reinikka

Frontbench urges quiet from backbench over leadership

TONY Abbott's frontbench has urged others within the Liberal Party to stop undermining the prime minister's leadership, in the wake of a failed leadership ballot two weeks ago.

It follows unconfirmed reports that leadership front-runner Malcolm Turnbull had met MPs and potentially had enough support to topple Mr Abbott.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is widely tipped to remain as Liberal Party deputy leader under Mr Turnbull, said yesterday leadership speculation was unhelpful.

She told reporters that she would not respond to "rumour and gossip", saying there was a spill motion moved a fortnight ago, which had failed.

Her comments came as Treasurer Joe Hockey hit out at the self-interest of unnamed MPs driving media speculation.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne similarly told Channel Nine that reports on Thursday night on the Seven Network about a potential challenge, were "a bit of static".

He said such claims were just "rumours circulating out of the Canberra press gallery" and they had "no basis in fact whatsoever".

The growing defensiveness of frontbenchers follows another report this week claiming as many as seven anonymous ministers could vote against Mr Abbott if a motion-to-spill ballot for the leadership was declared.

The renewed speculation comes as MPs prepared for a full sitting of parliament next week in Canberra.

Mr Abbott's grasp on the leadership was further undermined by some Liberals this week, who openly questioned his controversial attacks on Australian Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs.

The Prime Minister had said in parliament that he had "lost confidence" in Prof Triggs' leadership of the independent commission.

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