Hockey coy on taking leadership

It’s been revealed Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey has been sounded out by colleagues to replace Malcolm Turnbull, as leader of the Opposition.

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However the member for North Sydney said his loyalty remained with Mr Turnbull and the leadership.

“Well, people talk to me about all sorts of things … I’m not going to lie and pretend something hasn’t happened,” he told Fairfax radio yesterday.

Mr Hockey, who will take part in a shadow ministry meeting on emissions trading in Melbourne on Wednesday afternoon, was asked if it was true he had been approached by colleagues.

“I get sounded out about lots of things from time to time, and my absolute committed loyalty is to Malcolm and to the leadership,” he said.

“You know, it’s an incredibly tough job being leader of the opposition but you know he’s giving it his best shot and I’m totally supportive in that.”

Mr Hockey was asked repeatedly whether he had told colleagues on being approached over the leadership that he would not challenge but would be available if Mr Turnbull “falls over”.

“My colleagues speak to me about a lot of things but I’m just not going down the path of engaging in this because this in itself starts bushfires.

“I speak to my colleagues about lots of things from time to time, I don’t want to disclose what I speak to my colleagues about but I am very focused on beating Labor at the next federal election.”

The opposition fell further behind Labor in Tuesday’s Newspoll and Mr Turnbull is attempting to face down a party rebellion over whether to negotiate amendments to Labor’s emissions trading scheme.

Earlier this week, the Opposition Leader admitted the current shambolic state of the Liberal Party didn’t reflect well on his leadership.

Earlier on Tuesday, NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said the Liberals in Canberra were a “shambles” and the public had treated them accordingly.

Tuesday’s Newspoll shows Labor up three points at 58 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with the coalition dropping to 42 per cent.

“It appears as though there are a small number of people in Malcolm Turnbull’s party room who have to learn the lessons of history and disunity the hard way, by a second election defeat,” Mr

O’Farrell told reporters in Sydney.

Mr Turnbull later told ABC TV that Mr O’Farrell had seen first hand where disunity and squabbling led. The NSW Liberals have been in the opposition wilderness for nearly 15 years.

“He recognises it (disunity) when he sees it,” Mr Turnbull said.

“As he said, if you want to keep on losing elections just keep on fighting among yourselves.

“Discipline is important and it’s vital that we work as a team.”

He acknowledged the current state of affairs wasn’t a good look for him or the party.