A day after the PM tried to cement his leadership, the questions drag on

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has repeatedly refused to directly answer questions today over whether his deputy, Julie Bishop, refused to guarantee she won’t challenge him for the leadership.

Sky News reported this morning that Abbott had asked Bishop for an assurance on Sunday night, but she refused.

The report is a signal that Bishop is keeping her options open a day after Abbott’s speech to the National Press Club in which he sought to quell party unrest about his leadership.

MPs are still today questioning Abbott’s hold on power and are asserting something has got to give.

“Cabinet ministers have been ringing me and telling me things are just untenable,” one MP told News Corp today.

“Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott now have a Gillard-Rudd like relationship. It can’t go on like this,” another said.

One MP told the AFR that, “If she (Ms Bishop) doesn’t knock it out, you can take it as a given that the leadership challenge is on.”

Former army officer and Tasmanian Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, in an email obtained by the AFR, said he was saddened by the political strife facing his party.

The branches and sequels of the disunity I am reading about in the paper each day can go in a number of different ways. My hope, my plea is that we knuckle down, refocus on what’s important and not become the rabble we defeated.

I thought the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday was a strong speech, which rightly focused on the two things we must all focus on into the future – national economic sustainability and national security.

Our political enemy, the ALP-Green partnership have no plan for either of these. While they were fighting amongst themselves and changing leaders in the 42 and 43rd Parliaments, taxpayer resources were squandered, substantially diminishing Australia’s economic freedom of action.

When questioned by journalists today Abbott has repeatedly refused to answer whether he asked Bishop to commit to not launching a leadership challenge.

Asked about the report that he had asked Bishop for an assurance on Sunrise this morning, Abbott said he had “meetings with Julie Bishop all the time.”

Host David Koch asked him to clear up the speculation because people were interested in leadership stability. Abbott said: “The public elected a government, the public elected me as prime minister to clean up Labor’s mess and clean up Labor’s chaos… and that means, this year, a total focus on jobs and families.”

He said discussion around the leadership is was “Canberra insider games”, telling Koch: “You know that the public aren’t interested. Why don’t we leave all that insider gossip to the Canberra insiders.”

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