Joyce leads split over PM's blunder

28 Jan, 2015 05:58 AM
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Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
I'm always of the strong belief that all awards should be for ­Australians
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

COALITION MPs are warning Tony Abbott's leadership will be in peril if he makes another decision like awarding a knighthood to Prince Philip.

As senior ministers spent Tuesday having to publicly guarantee the Prime Minister's leadership, the backbench was split on the ramifications of the ­latest blunder, with views ranging from it having no impact, to the Prime Minister's tenure already being terminal.

But there was a near-universal view that should there be another ­similarly controversial 'captain's pick', ­momentum would gather for a change to either Julie Bishop or Malcolm ­Turnbull. All agreed the May budget is looming as a critical test.

Mr Abbott, who spent part of ­Tuesday continuing to phone ­backbenchers as part of his New Year's pledge to be more consultative, bewildered colleagues and angered some when he announced on Australia Day that a Knighthood of the Order of Australia would be given to Prince Philip.

None of his colleagues were ­consulted and the decision ­further fuelled internal fears of poor ­decision-making and a Prime Minister out of touch with the electorate.

One MP said while the decision was a bad one, it would be "a big leap" to use it to move on the leadership. But he warned tolerance levels were not inexhaustible.

"We hope that he's heard loud and clear: no more surprises from left field," he said.

"Not only are we over it, everyone's over it". This was the most ­common view.

At the other end of the spectrum, another MP said he believed Mr Abbott's leadership was already ­"terminal" as he had lost the public's support and lacked internal support in the party.

"He's got no one fighting in his ­corner now. No one will defend him," he said.

He said Mr Abbott was a "top bloke" but he lacked "currency" with voters and was "withering".

Sources said at least one senior ­minister was shifting his allegiance away from Mr Abbott in anticipation.

Either way, Mr Abbott is now ­effectively on notice.

After an awkward end to last year and a messy start to 2015, Mr Abbott will again try to hit the reset button on Monday with a speech to the National Press Club ­setting out plans for the year ahead.

Federal Coalition MPs from Queensland said the knighthood decision was not having much impact on the election campaign in that State.

Premier Campbell Newman, who goes to the polls on Saturday, called the decision "a bolt from the blue" with which he disagreed.

Mr Abbott will not make a single campaign appearance in Queensland due to fears he may hurt the ­Liberal-National Party vote.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, with whom Mr Abbott is close, took to ­Twitter to pan the knighthood decision.

"Abbott knighthood a joke and embarrassment. Time to scrap all ­honours everywhere, including UK," he tweeted.

Awards should be for Aussies: Joyce

Senior ministers lined up to ­guarantee Mr Abbott's leadership, but most also distanced themselves from the decision.

Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce became the first member of the executive to publicly criticise the decision, which sullied Australia Day celebrations and had MPs once more questioning Mr Abbott's political judgment.

"I'm always of the strong belief that all awards should be for ­Australians," he said.

"There's been awards in the past given to Nelson Mandela and to other people from overseas.

"My preference is that these awards go to Australians."

Mr Joyce said Mr Abbott was ­entitled to make decisions as leader, but added "a different person would make different decisions".

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said: "This is a decision that was made by the Prime Minister. It wasn't my decision."

He said there were no growing ­concerns about Mr Abbott's leadership. "The Prime Minister has got the strong support of his party room. The Prime Minister's done an outstanding job for Australia and as leader of the Liberal Party now for more than five years."

Veterans Affairs Minister Michael Ronaldson said Mr Abbott had the full confidence of the party "and he will remain the Prime Minister".

Hockey sidesteps

Defence Minister Kevin Andrews made the most strident defence of Mr Abbott.

"This is a man who has performed public service for six decades now," he said of Prince Philip.

"He's contributed in a very real way."

Mr Andrews said Mr Abbott was doing a great job under difficult ­circumstances and he had no doubt he would be the prime minister to take the party to the next election.

Treasurer Joe Hockey sidestepped when asked whether he would give such an award to Prince Philip if he were Prime Minister.

"I'm not the Prime Minister," he said.

Former Liberal Prime Minister and monarchist John Howard, who ­criticised Mr Abbott's decision in March last year to bring back knights and dames in the honours ­system, declined to comment on the ­latest furore.

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READER COMMENTS

Matt
28/01/2015 7:16:30 AM

Australia, you amaze as when Abbott & Lib`s were in Gov;They were never any good,even little Johnnie had to camouflage he`s indifferences & show compassion, but Abbott never did,& he has got worse...HELLO, wake up....
Graeme Henderson
28/01/2015 7:59:12 AM

The people who vote for the PM are 100% responsible for the PM's actions. Captain Abbott was never suitable as a PM, now he is completely out of control and at the rate he is taking us backwards before long he will have us back to the Crusades. If the party does not get rid of him then they must accept full responsibility for his actions.
Bushie Bill
28/01/2015 8:59:43 AM

Just get rid of this domestically and more importantly internationally embarrassing buffoon. We might as well have David Flint, friend of the Parrot, and embarrassing in his every utterance, as our PM. How could we let it get to this? How could we make such a mess of public administration?
Lee
28/01/2015 9:09:12 AM

Joyce could do well to look at his own performance, particularly on relation to adopting the Senate recommendations on grass fed cattle levies. all we have had is nothing after he initiated the inquir, millions were spent and the Senate came up with excelLent recommendations. the result is A big fat zero from Joyce
I don't know
28/01/2015 9:54:27 AM

Bill, please suggest an alternative, not so I can launch into opposition to your choice but I am genuinely interested in your thoughts as to who in particular might do a better job. Cheers.
Bushie Bill
28/01/2015 10:36:05 AM

Ah, the bluffing blustering bulls..tting buffoon boofhead is starting to unwind with even his most rusted on backers, eh? Bye bye boof. I am sure there is a Centrelink office in the New England somewhere. Perhaps Tony Windsor might give you a few weeks fencing?
Peter Comensoli
28/01/2015 10:41:39 AM

The most trivial of trivialities unsettles only the most unstable stability. This will be a one term Government if Abbott, Joyce and co don't start delivering more than trivialities (eg: FTAs, Drought loans, White papers, co-payments, paper dams and Knighthoods to Kings).
Chick Olsson
28/01/2015 10:51:20 AM

Barnaby is correct. The awards are for Aussie's only. End of story.
Bushie Bill
28/01/2015 11:05:24 AM

They would be, Chick, if One Term Tony (or is it now Half Term Tony?) could keep his word. It would be a good start if this boofhead could actually remember his commitments before suffering his frequent blood clot problems.
THE FARMER
28/01/2015 11:40:08 AM

Er we gave one to Sachin Tendulkar .No one went ranty pants then why now .
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