It's understood LNP MP Warren Entsch criticised a creeping tendency by ministers to speak out about their policy ideas before cabinet formed decisions. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
A pair of Liberal National Party MPs have warned their ministerial colleagues about publicly pre-empting cabinet decisions and the dangers of poor discipline and arrogance creeping into the Abbott ministry.
In the first Coalition party room meeting for 2014, LNP MP Warren Entsch criticised a creeping tendency by ministers to speak out about their policy ideas before cabinet had formed a collective view and come to a decision.
Concerns about drought aid: Liberal Senator Ian Macdonald. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
His concerns were echoed by Queensland LNP senator Ian Macdonald who specifically flagged concerns about public discussions around the development of a drought funding package.
Mr Entsch warned that by speaking out, there was a danger of other cabinet members and MPs being forced into backing a particular argument before it was government policy.
It's understood Mr Entsch's comments were made with several recent examples in mind, including Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce calling for additional drought assistance, several ministers signalling a royal commission on union corruption would be called before cabinet met on Monday to sign off on the idea, and about SPC's request for $25 million in funding assistance from the federal government.
Senator Macdonald asked Mr Joyce to provide an insight into ongoing development by the Coalition of drought assistance.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott stepped in to answer the question, telling the senator the policy was being worked through and that he would tour drought assisted areas shortly.
Mr Abbott identified three key moments ahead in 2014 – the expected abolition of the carbon tax in the first two weeks of July, Australia hosting the G20 in Brisbane in November, and the coming federal budget.
Victorian MP Sharman Stone, who has been vocal in calling for $25 million in assistance for SPC-Ardmona, told colleagues in a private meeting the company is in better shape and now looks like surviving.
Dr Stone used a speech in the Coalition party room to call for stronger anti-dumping and competition protections in order to put the country's last remaining cannery on a level playing field with cheaper international competitors.
But, according to a Liberal source, she also conceded the controversy had seen consumers rally around the well-known company.
In a virtual vindication of the government's tough stance of denying SPC-Ardmona an extension of corporate welfare, Dr Stone said there had been a 50 per cent increase in sales of SPC-Ardmona products since the issue became public.
Her indignation at the government's decision not to provide the company with financial assistance, had seen her brand her party leader, Mr Abbott a liar, for blaming the food processor's troubles on high labour cost arising from soft union deals.
In response, Mr Abbott allegedly responded that he agreed the company was not likely to pull out.
''I think you're right Sharman, I think it will survive,'' he is said to have responded in the meeting.