Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester has cautioned against focusing on festering leadership frictions within the coalition government, less than six months out from a federal election.
Mr Chester sought to downplay an apparent breakdown between Scott Morrison and former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, while also throwing his weight behind Nationals Leader Michael McCormack.
“We can’t spend the rest of this parliamentary term looking in the rear-view mirror,” he told the ABC on Sunday.
“The Australian people send us to Canberra to fight for them, not fight amongst ourselves.”
Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo believes voters don’t care about the dumping of Mr Turnbull as prime minister two months ago.
“I think they recognise that it’s happened, that it’s behind us, and that we’re now focused on what the next election will be about,” Mr Ciobo told Sky News.
He refused to say whether the government was better off under Mr Morrison, arguing it didn’t benefit anybody to speculate on such leadership issues.
The prime minister entangled himself in an awkward public clash with Mr Turnbull this week, after accusing his predecessor of going beyond his brief during an official visit to Indonesia.
Mr Turnbull was in Bali to attend an oceans conference, but spoke about trade and a controversial proposal to move Australia’s embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
Mr Morrison accused his old boss of over-stepping the mark, but was forced to correct the record just hours later, after Mr Turnbull revealed he was explicitly asked to canvass the topics.
The prickly encounter occurred as Mr McCormack faced separate questions about his leadership of the Nationals.
Barnaby Joyce has indicated he would like the leadership back, after several National Party MPs raised concerns about their leader’s capacity to stand up to the Liberals.
However, Mr Chester insists Mr McCormack has the support of the Nationals party room.
“There is no vacancy… we’ve all got to get on with our jobs,” he said.