Treasurer Joe Hockey has hit back at “fringe whingers” in the senior ranks of his party who have been backgrounding against him, while the Prime Minister has declared Joe Hockey has his “full confidence” and is doing a “fine job.”
In the latest internal attack on Hockey, Fairfax Media has reported that Cabinet Ministers have urged Tony Abbott to dump him if the Liberals lose next month’s Canning by-election.
The renewed burst of disunity led Government Senator Arthur Sinodinos to call on his leader to sack any Minister or adviser engaged in deliberate leaking and destabilisation.
Abbott has attempted to dismiss reports of a push on the Treasurer.
“It is a matter of so little moment that not a single person has raised this with me,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
“He has my full confidence. He has the full confidence of the cabinet. He's doing a fine job."
Hockey later told Sydney radio 2GB that reports he's about to be "thrown to the wolves" to protect the Prime Minister is “just gossip.. gossip parading as journalism".
He’s described the backgrounders, cited in the Fairfax story as at least two Cabinet Ministers, as “fringe whingers".
“Where ever they are, whoever the critics are, they will always be loud. The bottom line is what matters is what are you doing to improve the lives of everyday Australians?”
“And that is what I am sleepless about at night. That’s what I work at in the day.”
The Treasurer says he has spoken to his leader several times today and says Abbott told him the reports of backgrounding is “complete rubbish”.
The Ministers briefing against Hockey have advanced the theory that sacrificing him would allow for a political reset and set the stage for an early March federal poll.
Rising star, Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is again being touted as a likely successor to Joe Hockey in the Treasury portfolio, but he says these reports are "speculative nonsense".
"Joe's a great bloke. He's doing a tremendous job and we're all focused on the jobs growth and community safety," Morrison told Sydney radio 2GB.
But Sinodinos, former Chief of Staff to Prime Minister John Howard, is taking the renewed whispering campaign around Hockey seriously, and has accused government leakers of jeopardising the Coalition’s chances in the September 19 by-election.
“Ministers should be working hard to win the Canning by-election rather than backgrounding against a colleague to scapegoat a potential loss,” Sinodinos said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister should sack any Minister or adviser who is engaged in such deliberate leaking and destabilisation.”
“We should be working to achieve a swing to us in this by-election.”
There have been conflicting stories that Abbott’s job is on the line over the Canning poll, but the Treasurer has long been the subject of a series of political missteps and destabilisation.
Less than a week ago the Treasurer surprised his constitutional monarchist leader by joining a parliamentary group for an Australian head of state.
Sinodinos says government leakers should wake up.
“Holding out the prospect of a reshuffle and even a double dissolution election smacks of defeatism and a lack of focus on the substantive issues of governing," he said.
The blistering warning from the former Assistant Treasurer comes just two weeks after the Prime Minister “read the riot act” to Cabinet over leaks and disunity over the way forward on same sex marriage.
Arthur Sinodinos says the focus should be on Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who he calls “one of the most hollow individuals to ever occupy a leading political office”.
“This man is so used to backflips, he always books the seat behind him on the aeroplane.”
“Mr Shorten is the real enemy, not fellow Liberals.”