COMMUNICATIONS Minister Malcolm Turnbull has rejected a call from Tony Abbott’s supporters to publicly rule out a leadership challenge.
Channel Nine today reported that Mr Turnbull received a message from Deputy Government Whip Andrew Nikolic on the prime minister’s behalf last Friday to make a public statement that he would not challenge Mr Abbott’s leadership.
Another senior minister close to Mr Abbott contacted Mr Turnbull with a similar request, according to Channel Nine.
But Mr Turnbull has remained tight-lipped about the speculations, saying his rule was to say “nothing”, as any comment would only give the issue oxygen.
However, the frontbenchers pushing for Mr Turnbull’s return to the leadership have declared a challenge inevitable as a new poll predicted the Prime Minister faces a savage 10 per cent swing in the Canning by-election.
As Liberal MPs prepare to return to Canberra, some ministers have even refused to rule out a revolt this week, before the WA by-election.
A senior Liberal MP said: “The Prime Minister’s future is done and dusted. Malcolm is the solution. The bottom line is it cannot go on.’’
Mr Abbott faces a swing of up to 10 per cent in the Canning by-election, according to a new Galaxy poll commissioned by The Sunday Telegraph.
It reveals that former SAS captain Andrew Hastie will retain the seat but with two-party support slashed to 52 per cent to Labor’s 48 per cent.
If they close Canning, then I believe Abbott will face a challenge. If they manage to hold on, then possibly not.
If there is a challenge, Abbott is probably gone, but it may not be Turnbull. Scott Morrison is well regarded and less divisive in the caucus.