By political reporter Susan McDonald
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he has a “cordial” relationship with Tony Abbott and has rejected suggestions of discontent within conservative ranks of the party.
“I have had a good chat with Tony,” he said.
“Tony and I have obviously had some differences at different times but we’ve known each other for a very long time and we have been and always will be able to have a very cordial discussion,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Turnbull laughed off a question about whether Mr Abbott was leading an “insurgency” against him, replying “of course not”.
The Prime Minister has faced a campaign from some backbenchers led by Mr Abbott to expand Australia’s military commitment in the Middle East fighting Islamic State terrorists.
Former defence minister Kevin Andrews earlier this week called for ground troops in Syria.
But Mr Turnbull said he would not interpret Mr Andrews’ remarks as challenging his authority.
“People are entitled to express the view that there should be a large Western military force, boots on the ground, they’re entitled to express that view but that’s an opinion,” Mr Turnbull said.
The Prime Minister then swiftly rejected the idea again.
“It is not for Australians to commit the armed forces of the United States to combat,” he said.