Malcolm Turnbull: I'm not at war with Tony Abbott

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott Hamish Blair

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has denied it's 'open warfare' between him and Tony Abbott, despite an embarrassing leak on Thursday that took their rivalry to a new level.

It emerged in newspaper reports that internal Coalition polling in the lead-up to the last election showed Mr Abbott was on track to lose his seat.

Mr Turnbull's intervention was attributed with "saving" the former PM, it was said.

The bizarre leak came after several weeks of public comments from Mr Abbott about the government's performance.

In an interview on ABC's 7.30 program tonight, the Prime Minister denied that it was "open warfare" between him and the man whose job he took.

"Totally unfair. Ridiculous thing to say," he said.

"My job as Prime Minister is to deliver on my commitments to the Australian people. I'm not interested in personalities or politics of that kind."

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton this week.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton this week. Kym Smith, News Corp Australia

While the source of today's leak is unknown, Mr Abbott told reports that the details of the polling was known by very few people.

Commentators speculated that it was in retaliation to Mr Abbott's continuing commentary - which one colleague demanded he stop - about the government's performance in opinion polls and key policy.

"I'm focused on delivering for the Australian people," Mr Turnbull said. "We won the election less than a year ago. Look what we have done."

When asked if Treasurer Scott Morrison would keep his job at the next Cabinet reshuffle, the prime minister insisted he would.

"Of course he will. Look, Scott is doing an outstanding job. You know, it is such a disappointment, I have to say, that you are focused on the politics when we should be talking about (policy)."

One of those policies Mr Turnbull was keen to spruik was changes to the citizenship test for new migrants and toughen of minimum requirements for citizens.

He denied it was a kneejerk reaction to the growing popularity of Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party.

"This matter has been discussed in the cabinet … for months," Mr Turnbull said.

"What this is about, the vast majority of Australians are pleased to see we're standing up for Australian values."

Those values included freedom, equality of men and women, mutual respect, a fair go, democracy and rule of law, he said.

In terms of hopeful citizens having to demonstrate their 'integration' in the community, he said the mechanism would be defined later.

"We have a discussion paper out on that," he said. "What people should demonstrate is that they're engaged and integrated with the Australian community."

That might include joining "the surf club" or becoming involved with a P&C association at the local school, he suggested.

"In other words, demonstrating that they're involved in the broader Australian community."

Topics:  malcolm turnbull politics

News Corp Australia

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