Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has thrown her support behind Joe Hockey amid reports his job’s at risk if the federal government performs badly in next month’s Canning by-election.
Fairfax Media reports two unnamed cabinet ministers have told Prime Minister Tony Abbott to dump Hockey and call a March federal election, as opinion polls point to a big swing against the Liberal party in the Western Australian seat at the September 19 poll.
Bishop said instead of criticising Hockey people should recognise the enormous task he faces in repairing a budget which was “trashed” by the former Labor government.
“Not only does Joe have to deal with repairing the budget, he is also dealing with irresponsible Labor senators who are refusing to pass measures in the Senate,” she told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
Asked to rate Hockey’s performance as treasurer, Bishop said it was a “ridiculous question”.
“I don’t go around rating performance of journalists, I don’t rate performances of actors, I’m not got going to rate the performances of my cabinet colleagues, it’s nonsense,” she said.
Senior Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos slammed his senior colleagues, saying ministers should work hard to win the Canning by-election and stop briefing journalists.
“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 in a statement.
“The prime minister should sack any minister or adviser who is engaged in such deliberate leaking and destabilisation.”
Junior minister Simon Birmingham rejected “every single aspect” of the speculation over Hockey’s future.
“Joe Hockey has done a brilliant job on budget restoration, on job creation and on developing policies that will take the government through to the next election and beyond,” he told Sky News.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan dismissed speculation Hockey could be punted in favour of high-performing minister Scott Morrison.
“I don’t comment on gossip and nonsense,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek said the government’s economic failures were to blame.
“It is really no wonder that people are talking about changing the treasurer,” she told the Seven Network.
“The real problem is that there is no plan for the transition of the Australian economy.”
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