Embattled Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull says he will be the next Liberal prime minister and there are no plans for a leadership spill.
Flanked by rumoured rival Joe Hockey at a press conference in Melbourne, Mr Turnbull said “it will certainly be me” when asked who would be the next Liberal prime minister.
Mr Hockey “absolutely” agreed with his leader.
When asked if there were plans for a leadership spill, Mr Turnbull said: “Certainly not”.
There has been mounting speculation about Mr Turnbull’s leadership after popular Mr Hockey on Wednesday revealed he had been sounded out by colleagues about taking over the leadership.
Mr Turnbull rejected suggestions that he should step aside soon for the good of the party.
“There is no chance of that happening,” he said.
‘Lack of leadership’ from PM
“And the fact of the matter is we are focused on one leadership issue alone which is the lack of leadership shown by (Prime Minister) Kevin Rudd in the reckless spending that is putting such a heavy burden on Australians today and their children and grandchildren to come.”
Mr Hockey said he was right behind his leader, saying Mr Turnbull had his “absolute unqualified support”.
“He always has had that, he continues to have that, he will have that into the future,” he said.
Mr Hockey said he was focused on snatching a job away from Treasurer Wayne Swan.
“The job I want is Wayne Swan’s job, I want to knock off Wayne Swan,” he said.
As for Mr Turnbull, Mr Hockey said he wanted to see him take over from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
“I want this guy to get Kevin Rudd’s job, I want that, I really do, and I want Australians to want that as well,” he said.
Party unity ‘absolutely vital’
Mr Turnbull said unity in the party was “absolutely vital”.
“And that’s what we have,” he said, adding that there would be “outbreaks of disorder” from time to time.
He said people disagreed with policy proposals in all political parties.
“And perhaps disagree more forcefully or more publicly than is ideal… but… that’s part and parcel of political life.”
Mr Turnbull spoke about the difficulties of his role as opposition leader.
“You have to put up with a lot,” he said. “You need broad shoulders and a thick hide in this line of work.”
Turnbull relaxed, jovial
Mr Turnbull appeared relaxed and jovial during the crucial press conference, as did Mr Hockey. Both MPs laughed and made jokes.
Mr Turnbull stuck to his guns on a plan to negotiate with Labor amendments to government legislation setting up an emissions trading scheme (ETS).
That stance has been the catalyst for some MPs, who oppose the scheme, to suggest a change in party leadership.
The opposition had to be ready to negotiate with the government over the scheme if it came to a vote in parliament this year, Mr Turnbull said.
But he reiterated the coalition’s preference for a vote to be delayed until next year when the outcome of a United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen in December were known.