Credlin spray fuels government tensions
A BID by Tony Abbott's chief media defender to humiliate a senior minister on national television is today further fuelling division within the government.
Peta Credlin, chief of staff to Mr Abbott when he was prime minister, revealed on Sky News last night she had reprimanded Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg over comments he made about her former employer.
"I don't think you'll see that again," said Ms Credlin, a Sky News commentator, in a tone suggesting she still spoke from the leader's office.
The minister had offended her three days earlier by saying on the Nine Network Mr Abbott "is always going to cut across what the Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) has been saying lately".
Asked if Mr Abbott was a team member, Mr Frydenberg laughed.
Mr Abbott also called the minister to complain about the comment, news.com.au has learned. But the public Ms Credlin response will cause the most damage to the government.
It was a challenge for Mr Frydenberg to disown his comments - in effect to apologise - or to repeat them if asked to by reporters.
The heightened tension comes as he prepares to negotiate with states this Friday on the government's National Energy Guarantee, which Mr Abbott has criticised.
And the Credlin attack came as Mr Turnbull prepared to fly out for a 10-day visit to London, Berlin, Brussels and Villers-Bretonneux in France where he and Mr Abbott will attend the opening of the $100 million Sir John Monash Centre war memorial.
But the central issues are the government's electoral fate and that of Mr Turnbull.
Ms Credlin accused Mr Frydenberg of playing up to the Prime Minister.
"I think that was Josh burnishing his credentials with Turnbull," she told The Bolt Report.
"I think it probably diminished Josh a little bit in the eyes of conservatives. It wouldn't have helped him with the base.
"But you know, I think it was levity; I think he thought it was funny. I think that afterwards he probably reflected and decided it wasn't funny.
"I've had a conversation with him. I'm not going to go into it on air.
"But I don't think you'll see that again."
Mr Frydenberg's remarks followed Mr Abbott's criticism of government energy policy by saying it wasn't pro-coal enough, and by supporting suggestions a "tricky" Mr Turnbull should reconsider his position if he isn't topping opinion polls by the end of the year.
On the same day as the Nine interview, Mr Abbott replied: "We'll keep it to policies, not personalities," he said, despite having branded Mr Turnbull as tricky.
"My focus is on what is going to do the right thing for the people of Australia," he told Sky News