Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Treasurer Joe Hockey is doing a fine job. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer Mr Abbott said no one had raised with him the question of Mr Hockey’s future. Photo: Louie Douvis
Abbott urged to consider dumping Hockey
Tony Abbott says Joe Hockey is “doing an excellent job” and enjoys the full confidence of the Prime Minister and cabinet, a day after two cabinet ministers told Fairfax Media that discussions were taking place about whether to move against the Treasurer if the Canning byelection goes badly for the Coalition government.
Mr Abbott has insisted that no one had raised with him the future of his under-fire Treasurer.
His comments came as respected NSW senator Arthur Sinodinos launched an attack on his former ministerial colleagues for leaking against Mr Hockey and called on Mr Abbott to sack anyone found guilty of destabilising the government.
In a sign of the gallows humour taking hold in the Coalition, despondent Liberals joked to Fairfax Media, “that was close — we almost stayed on message today” and “another week going well; didn’t even make it to 9am Monday without another self-inflicted wound”.
But Mr Abbott said talk of a switch to Social Services Minister Scott Morrison was “a matter of almost no account whatsoever, no one has even raised it with me. The Treasurer is doing an excellent job, he has my full confidence and he has the full confidence of the cabinet,” he said.
“Not a single person has raised this issue with me; it’s a matter of so little moment that not a single person has raised it with me. He has my full confidence, he has the full confidence of the cabinet, he is doing a fine job.”
Asked about the call to sack leakers made by Senator Sinodinos, Mr Abbott said that “this government is focused every day on jobs and growth. The best thing we can do for jobs and growth right now is get the China free trade agreement through the Parliament”.
Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen made an extraordinary plea for his opposite number to be kept in the job because “getting rid of a treasurer, even as bad as this one, would have a blow on consumer confidence and business confidence”.
“We have cabinet ministers backgrounding and leaking against their Treasurer. We have the spectacle of a government senator, Senator Sinodinos, releasing a statement about the internal workings of the Liberal Party and attacking his own colleagues. What is very clear is that this is a government focussed on themselves,” he said.
Meanwhile, a leak to Fairfax Media about Monday’s talking points, which are sent to ministerial offices, revealed that no ministers were offered any instructions on how to respond to questions about the future of the Treasurer.
On the Canning byelection, which cabinet ministers believe could trigger a frontbench switch to Mr Morrison if the swing is larger than 6 per cent, the talking points emphasise the local nature of the contest.
They state that voters in Canning are being asked to choose someone to follow in late MP Don Randall’s footsteps and represent their interests in Canberra.
“It’s about choosing someone who has the experience, compassion, leadership ability and dedication to listen to local people and deliver what they need,” the note states.
“[Liberal candidate] Andrew Hastie served his country and has the experience and training to deliver for the people of Canning.”
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