3 Feb 2015

Abbott's leadership crisis on the agenda

6:47 am on 3 February 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's leadership woes will be on the agenda when Cabinet meets in Canberra today.

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott Photo: AFP

The meeting comes a day after Mr Abbott gave a crucial speech at the National Press Club following days of intense leadership speculation after being criticised for not consulting enough and making poor decisions on both policy and politics.

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Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said there were no wallflowers in Cabinet and people would tell the Prime Minister how he was faring.

Speaking on the ABC's Q&A program, Mr Joyce said while Mr Abbott had made some mistakes, the government needed to stick to its guns.

"I've spoken to Tony, I've spoken to Joe [Hockey], I've spoken to my colleagues ... we have a strong belief that we have a purpose, we've got to try to turn the nation around and we've just got to deal with this and get through it," he said.

"How you judge a person in these periods of time is how they deal with them.

"You get to a point where it appears the chips are against you and that is how you judge the character of those around you.

"They are either up to it and you stick as a group or it falls to pieces and goes into chaos."

Mr Abbott's leadership had been questioned in recent days by some of his colleagues who were frustrated with his approach.

The Prime Minister used his speech in Canberra to mount a spirited defence of the government's achievements, promised a more consultative style of government, and suggested the Liberal party room had no right to remove him from the top job.

"Sure party rooms or caucuses choose leaders," Mr Abbott said.

"But once they have gone to an election things have changed. It's the people that hire and, frankly, it's the people who should fire."

Morrison pledges support for PM

The National Press Club address was seen by many as Mr Abbott's bid to shore up his leadership and reset the government's agenda, as the Coalition grappled with a crushing loss in the Queensland election and months of poor polling.

Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison Photo: AFP

Speaking on 7.30, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Mr Abbott's speech but was asked about speculation the Prime Minister could be challenged.

Mr Morrison, who had been touted as a potential future leader of the Coalition, rejected suggestions he would challenge Mr Abbott and said he did not know whether colleagues Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop had been having leadership discussions.

"What I'm telling you is the Prime Minister has my support and I've outlined that in any number of ways," Mr Morrison said.

"The Government and the Prime Minister has set out what we're focusing on for Australian families and for small businesses and others are focusing on these matters."

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said Mr Abbott's failure to listen to his colleagues and the electorate meant he could be removed as Liberal leader within days.

"I think it is time they change leadership," she told Q&A.

"Tony Abbott has failed. He cannot stand up today and admit that he has failed. And, you know, it takes a big man to admit yep, he's failed and until he does that, cleaning up this mess is never going to happen."

Mr Abbott used his first formal address at the National Press Club as Prime Minister to dump his signature paid parental leave policy and remove himself from the process selecting knights and dames under the Order of Australia.

He also said the Coalition was working on a new families policy to form part of this year's budget and announced a tax cut for small business.

He said Australians "deserve budget repair, no return of the carbon tax, no restart of people smuggling and no infighting".

While he acknowledged the Government had had a rough couple of months, he said "when things are difficult, the last thing you want to do is to make your difficulties worse".

-ABC

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