Backbench Liberals went public in their revolt against Tony Abbott on Tuesday night, openly denouncing government policy and calling for a leadership spill.
Western Australian MP Dr Dennis Jensen, who was instrumental in the spill that brought Tony Abbott to the leader’s chair, called for the raging speculation to be “brought to a head”, saying that Mr Abbott’s leadership was now “terminal” and that he should step aside.
On 2UE radio, Dr Jensen revealed that he had informed the prime minister as far back as 23 January that he “no longer enjoyed my support”.
Dr Jensen praised Mr Abbott as “a great wartime leader” in opposition but said Australia now needed “a great peacetime leader”.
Speaking to the ABC’s 7:30 current affairs programme, Dr Jensen said policy under Mr Abbott was too focussed on reducing debt and deficit.
Sunshine Coast MP Mal Brough, who was late last week touted as a Trojan horse challenger – to open the gates for more favoured candidates – when the Abbott leadership crisis first gained traction, declared his support for the PM was “qualified”.
Brough said and that the stalled Medicare GP co-payment “doesn’t make economic sense and it doesn’t make health sense” and called for it to be abandoned.
The leadership issue “needs to be resolved”, he said.
Warren Entsch, a coalition backbencher also from Queensland where the LNP fallout from the weekend’s state election bloodbath continues, said a party room ballot should be held when federal parliament returns next week.
“It needs to be resolved,” Entch told Fairfax Media.
“Good luck to him [Dr Jensen], good on him, it has to be resolved one way or another when people make those sorts of comments.
“The focus has got to go back to dealing with our many challenges. I’m not discouraging him [Dr Jensen] from expressing a point of view. It needs to be resolved. And I suspect it will be, one or way another.”
According to The Guardian Australia, some backbenchers are saying up to a third of Liberal MPs support and leadership change.
Responding to the open revolt, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the Prime Minister was being “sabotaged” by some of his colleagues.
“Julie Bishop, Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have been very clear in their support of the PM and I think people going out to sabotage the PM so that he can’t get out a clear message just is outside the bounds of what Australians see as a fair go,” he told 7:30.
Earlier on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was forced to issue a public statement that she was not and would not mount a challenge to Tony Abbott’s prime ministership. The statement did not rule out putting herself forward should the leadership position become vacant, though.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the National Press Club this week. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)