A supposed rift between Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Peta Credlin has reached boiling point, according to sources inside the government’s party room.
An unnamed Coalition frontbencher told The Australian the powerful political figures were “like two Siamese fighting fish stuck in the same tank” and that their working relationship had severely deteriorated.
The parliamentary insider said “Tony (Abbott) isn’t going to get rid of Peta and Julie isn’t going to stop”, indicating it was unlikely the situation would improve.
According to one of the Prime Minister’s cohorts, the pair need to “sit down and have it out – this just can’t continue”.
But both Bishop and Credlin deny they have had a falling out, with the latter describing her relationship with the Foreign Minister as “strong and constructive”.
There is also growing suspicion that the Prime Minister’s Office is displeased with what one Liberal MP describes as Bishop’s “self-promoting campaign”. A source close to the PM says Bishop “wants it to be known that she is available” as an alternative in the role of party leader “if needed”.
Bishop, the emoji-friendly minister, said “There is no rift between Peta and me. I have never had a cross word with her. The Prime Minister and I are working as a team, I do not covet anybody else’s job.”
Last week, Fairfax Media reported the Foreign Minister allegedly “went bananas” when the Prime Minister’s Office decided trade minister Andrew Robb would join her during climate change negotiations in Peru, hinting at political tension between Tony Abbott and his only female frontbencher.
The Abbott government’s recent back downs and overhaul of key policies, including the junking of the $7 GP Payment and significant changes to the Paid Parental Leave scheme, indicate a changing attitude within the PM’s Office.
Government MPs suggest the new approach has opened the door for backbenchers – who reportedly favour Bishop over Credlin – to convey their parliamentary concerns to the Prime Minister directly, in the hopes of putting an end to party criticism that control at the helm is too consolidated.
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