Tony Abbott says Warren Truss was cropped, not airbrushed out of the Liberal Party ad. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Opposition Leader Tony Abbott insists the relationship between the Liberal and National parties is “rock solid”, despite an increasingly public feud within the Coalition in Western Australia.
“I fully accept that there's been some pretty robust exchanges between my distinguished party colleagues in the west,” Mr Abbott conceded after his speech at the National Press Club on Monday .
“There has been a long traditional of very robust competition between the Liberal Party and the National Party in the west,” he added. “It hasn't stopped them from being a very successful government”.
The conflict within the Coalition broke out over Liberal Party advertisements in the West Australian newspaper over the weekend, which claimed credit for a $1 billion regional fund that Nationals' leader Warren Truss announced last week. Mr Truss was airbrushed out of the advertisement.
Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey added to the offence when he was reported saying over the weekend: “If you're not part of the team, you are part of a protest movement that has no influence”.
NSW National Party senator Fiona Nash attacked the shadow treasurer for his comments, telling Guardian Australia it showed “how disconnected Joe Hockey is from regional Australia”.
“If that seriously is what Joe Hockey thinks about the National Party then there needs to be some very strong discussions taking place,” Senator Nash said.
“The comment was beyond the pale”.
Mr Truss issued a statement over the weekend expressing his “disgust at a blatantly dishonest advertisement run by WA Liberals”.
"The Nationals have fought for two years to get this fund up and neither of the WA Liberal candidates for O'Connor or Durack had any part in the inception of The National Stronger Regions Fund,” Mr Truss said in the statement.
During the question and answer session that followed Mr Abbott's speech to the press club on Monday, a journalist held up a photocopy of the advertisement that had so offended the National Party.
The journalist pointed out that the Liberals had “airbrushed” Mr Truss out of the advert.
Mr Abbott replied: "I think he was cropped… rather than airbrushed".
Mr Abbott went on to say there was a “world of difference” between the relationship between the Liberal and National parties in the west and the relationship between the two parties in Canberra.
“Here in Canberra, there is an absolutely rock solid Coalition,” Mr Abbott said.
“I am proud of my friendship and my cooperation with Warren Truss.
“Without verballing him, I think, I can say he would say the same of me and this will continue every day should we form a government after the election”.