Former prime minister John Howard says he does not detect any desire within the Liberal Party for a leadership change, telling Coalition MPs to “bury their differences” and unite behind Malcolm Turnbull.
Mr Howard conceded a lot of Liberal supporters were nervous about the Government’s fortunes but warned they would be “very unhappy and very angry” with the party if it continues to focus on itself rather than Labor’s “many policy failures”.
“I don’t find any evidence in the party of people wanting a change of leader,” Mr Howard told 730.
“We’ve done that and we still have an electoral challenge.
“I do not regard the next election as unwinnable.”
But he said the party would need to “work together in a far more purposeful way” than it had been.
Coalition MPs are bracing for an uncomfortable week next week when the Government is set to lose its 30th consecutive Newspoll to Labor — a benchmark set by Malcolm Turnbull when he rolled Tony Abbott for the top job in 2015.
While there is no obvious leadership contender waiting in the wings, MPs on the conservative and moderate sides are using the opportunity to advance their causes and privately air their grievances with Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
Home Affairs Minister, and leading conservative, Peter Dutton today conceded Australia is “on track for a Shorten-led government” before pledging his support for Mr Turnbull’s leadership.
In a blunt message, Mr Howard told Liberals to “bury your differences” and reminded them they had a collective responsibility to “get the act together”.
“My exhortation to all Liberals is just remember you’re carrying the hopes and aspirations of millions of supporters around the country and they want you to work together, they want you to bury your differences,” he said.
The former prime minister led the Liberal Party for 12 consecutive years until 2007 but acknowledged politics was now a “vastly different world” which has to contend with social media.
“We are going through a very different political phase — social media invites people to comment a lot more than they did,” he said.
“They’re great weapons but also immense hazards”.