Abbott keen to stop ‘insider gossip’ amid allegations of media ‘jihad’

Tony Abbott brushed off questions about leaks from within his own cabinet after a number of senior frontbenchers called for leakers to be sacked.

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Addressing media on Tuesday, Mr Abbott said he would not be drawn into the “insider gossip”.

“I know that people in this building love insider gossip, but this government is focused on the people of Australia,” he said.

Senior coalition sources have been venting complaints about colleagues to media outlets in recent weeks, with the most recent attacks aimed at Treasurer Joe Hockey’s performance.

Two weeks ago, Mr Abbott warned the cabinet and party room about the need for unity and the potential for disciplinary action against leakers – which Immigration Minister Peter Dutton repeated on Tuesday.

“If you can discover who the person is, of course they should be (sacked),” Mr Dutton told the Seven Network.

“It can only be for their own ambitions. It can’t be for the best interests of our country.”

Social Services Minister Scott Morrison likened the news reports about disunity to reality television.

“It’s speculative nonsense, I’m not going to indulge this fantasy,” Mr Morrison told ABC radio.

Mr Morrison, who has been flagged as a potential future treasurer or leader, said Mr Hockey was a great bloke doing a “tremendous job”.

Mr Dutton claimed Fairfax Media, helped by the ABC, was trying to bring down the government.

“The reality is that there is a bit of a jihad being conducted by Fairfax at the moment,” he said.

Reporters had “morphed into frustrated politicians”, he said.

Labor ministers during the Rudd-Gillard era accused News Corp Australia of trying to overturn the government.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he was confident the government was on track, despite the leaks.

“I think with a year or more to go until the next election we’ve got plenty of time to regroup,” he told ABC radio.

The government faces a by-election test on September 19 when voters in the West Australian seat of Canning elect a replacement for the late Liberal MP Don Randall.

Mr Morrison said it was a test for the whole government, not just one minister.

“We’re not going to lose it,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said government ministers should not blame journalists for their mistakes.

“My advice to Peter Dutton is if you want better coverage, be a better government,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Whittlesea, where he was visiting a school.

“I would like Mr Abbott and his Liberal team to start standing up for Australian jobs for once, put the jobs of Aussies first rather than your own jobs.”