Foreign Minister Julie Bishop questioned the federal government's handling of its first budget in a full meeting of the Abbott ministry on Monday night.
In an embarrassing leak from just the second meeting of the full ministry for 2015, Fairfax Media has been told Ms Bishop raised her concerns about the sales job of the first budget with Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
Several people in the meeting of the 42-member executive which includes the cabinet, outer ministry and parliamentary secretaries said Ms Bishop called for broader consultation on the "narrative" surrounding the Coalition's looming second budget.
The Foreign Minister unfavourably contrasted the Coalition's sales job on its unpopular first budget with the Howard government's efforts.
She argued that under former prime minister John Howard each budget had had an overarching theme or narrative, pointing out that in 2007, for example, her then portfolio of education had been a key theme.
Mr Abbott and Senator Cormann responded by explaining the current budget context to the room.
Ms Bishop's frank comments are said to have surprised a number of people in the meeting, however her concerns are shared by many members of the government.
The comments were made during the gathering of the full ministry. Cabinet had started at 5pm on Monday and the full meeting of the ministry and parliamentary secretaries began at 7pm before wrapping up at around 8pm.
Ministers made short statements and observations about their portfolio during the meeting.
Mr Abbott promised more meetings of the full ministry in his National Press Club speech on February 2 as part of a plan to be more consultative.
The Prime Minister has promised the second federal budget will put more money in families' pockets.
At the same time - and with the recent release of the Intergenerational Report - Treasurer Joe Hockey is attempting to make the case for budget repair and difficult decisions to return the budget to surplus.
After 10 months, key elements of the first federal budget such as higher education reforms are still yet to be passed by the hostile Senate.
A families package, which in part at least addresses the rising cost of childcare, and a small business and jobs package that includes a tax cut of at least 1.5 per cent for small business are expected to be released in the coming weeks.
The Prime Minister and Foreign Minister's offices declined to comment.
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