Abbott hit by friendly fire as Liberals fill Labor void

The opposition ranks are peppered with those speaking out against the unshakeable views of their leader. Political correspondent Stephanie Peatling analyses the contradictions.

The opposition ranks are peppered with those speaking out against the unshakeable views of their leader. Political correspondent Stephanie Peatling analyses the contradictions.

Joe Hockey all but suggests welfare payments should be stripped back. Malcolm Turnbull wants a conscience vote on gay marriage. Andrew Robb and half the shadow cabinet believe keeping superannuation rises linked to the mining tax is crazy.

Nearly everyone in the Coalition party room has some criticism of the paid parental leave scheme. They are all contradicting, to some extent, their leader, Tony Abbott.

Generally MPs are discouraged from speaking out of school. They are certainly not encouraged to vote against the party line.

Abbott again last week faced the suggestion he is not tough enough on MPs who have a brain snap and suggest something that isn't on his agenda - such as Hockey's speech in London on welfare or Robb's comments that the ANZ Bank may have needed to raise mortgage rates to keep its profits healthy.

Some observers are still scratching their heads about Hockey's contribution.

Others believe Robb was not misquoted, but did not use quite the right form of words to get his point across.

"He's the last person to go off message," one MP says of the party's former federal director.

There is certainly a view among some Coalition MPs that their economic team would be taken more seriously by the business community and the public - and be less of a target for the government - if it was made up of Turnbull and Arthur Sinodinos instead of Hockey and Robb.

MPs point to the need for the absolute best team possible on economic policy as the government strikes again and again on the issue of economic management 18 months from an election.

This may be true but Abbott is not of a mind to have a reshuffle. No change in the team is the same as no change on any policy he will not allow the government to turn his own battle cry of broken promises and untrustworthiness back on him.

Abbott's leadership is not under question, which leaves him in a comfortable, if not luxurious, position.

Hockey and Robb still see themselves as leadership material but MPs are not speaking out of turn to destabilise Abbott's leadership. The Opposition Leader has delivered the main thing the party room wants - an unassailable lead in the polls.

"And people like him," one MP says, pointing out Liberal politicians still remember the days of Turnbull's leadership when many felt ignored or merely tolerated.

Abbott himself has been very disciplined since becoming leader in 2009. There have been the odd outbreaks - such as a joke about the Costa Concordia - but he has moved quickly to apologise or clarify his statements.

"It's not like when he was minister and we'd all disappear for three days to throttle him," one senior frontbencher chuckled.

"He gets up every day and he relentlessly delivers the same message day after day after day."

Cathy Wilcox cartoon Page 88

Tony Abbotts position: Will keep super increases associated with mining tax

"Its just totally unacceptable, its unrealistic and its just knocking the stuffing out of innovation". Andrew Robb (21/3/2012)

Tony Abbotts position: Supports the need for a second Sydney airport in the long run

"There will be no need for a second airport in Sydney for a long period of time." Warren Truss (16/4/2012)

Tony Abbotts position: On the use of public funds to send asylum seekers to family funerals aft er the Christmas Island tragedy, said it was curious and a bit unusual.

"No matter what the colour of your skin, no matter what the nature of your faith, if your child has died or a father has died, you want to be there for the ceremony to say goodbye, and I totally understand the importance of this to those families. " Joe Hockey (15/2/2011)

Tony Abbotts position: No conscience vote on gay marriage

"My view is there should be a conscience vote." Malcolm Turnbull (6/12/2011)

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