- Turnbull's withdrawal from ABC interviews privately blamed on PM's office
- Turnbull insists Abbott has party's full support
- The Pulse Live with Judith Ireland
Alan Jones and Andrew Bolt are "bomb throwers" doing the work of the Labor Party to undermine the Abbott government, says Malcolm Turnbull.
For the second time in a week, the Communications Minister has locked horns over media commentary of his relationship with Clive Palmer following a dinner with the Fairfax MP last week.
In a showdown with Jones on Thursday morning, Mr Turnbull accused the commentator of creating trouble where there was none after the 2GB announcer said Mr Turnbull was "happy to chuck a few bombs around that might blow up Abbott a bit".
''Well, that's what you're saying, that's what Andrew Bolt is saying and it is doing the Labor Party's work,'' Mr Turnbull responded.
''This is the most united, cohesive government we've had in this country for a long time and I think it is just very sad that you and Bolt are doing the work of the Labor Party and undermining the Abbott government.''
Jones asked Mr Turnbull if he was suggesting that he and Bolt were the bomb throwers.
''You are Alan, you are,'' Mr Turnbull said.
Jones accused Mr Turnbull of having ''a few sensitive nerves''.
''The problem with you, Alan, is that you like to dish it out but you don’t like to take it,'' Mr Turnbull responded.
In an earlier exchange, Mr Turnbull issued a rebuke to Jones after he demanded the Communications Minister recite a declaration of his allegiance to the ''Abbott-Hockey strategy for budget repair''.
''Alan, I am not going to take dictation from you,'' he said.
''I am a cabinet minister, I support unreservedly, and wholeheartedly every element in the budget, every single one.''
He added: ''Do you want me just to read through the whole budget?''
Jones had also said Mr Turnbull's actions stemmed from his inability to let go of his leadership ambitions, which the broadcaster said would never be realised.
''No there's no challenge to his leadership because you have no hope ever of being the leader, you've got to get that into your head but because of that you're happy to chuck a few bombs around that might blow up Abbott a bit,'' Jones said.
The interview marks the second time in a week that Mr Turnbull has confronted media over reports suggesting that his friendly relationship with Mr Palmer is a sign he is trying to destabilise Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership.
Mr Turnbull said on Monday that speculation by News Corp's Bolt ''borders on the demented'' and was ''quite unhinged''.
Bolt responded on Tuesday by accusing the Communication Minister of deliberately trying to keep the story going and fueled the issue again in a blog post on Thursday, saying Mr Turnbull was ''trying to marginalise commentators he perceives as supporters of Tony Abbott''.
Later on Thursday, Mr Turnbull was questioned on his motivations for going on Jones’ show and whether lashing out at him and Bolt was doing more harm to the government than good.
He said he could not ignore the ''trouble-making'' claims by both commentators and refused to take a ''backwards step'' by allowing their allegations to go unchallenged.
''People make extravagant, outrageous, false, trouble-making allegations so what do you do?'' Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.
''Do you ignore them or do you respond?
''You can ignore it, in which case silence is deemed as some kind of agreement or consent.
''Or you can actually state the case, call a spade a bloody shovel and call this out for what it is and this is what I have done.''
Mr Turnbull insisted he was trying to defend the government.
''You may think I have been more forthright than I ought to have been but the bottom line is, I am not going to take a backwards step in my job of defending this government, this government’s unity, this governments budget,'' he said.
On the dinner with Mr Palmer, Mr Turnbull told Jones that MPs had no choice but to deal with the Fairfax MP if they wanted to pass legislation in the Senate after July 1.
''The thing that has distressed me this week is that people, yourself, Andrew Bolt, in particular, have set out to suggest that there is dissension in the government, that there are challenges to Tony Abbott's leadership,'' Mr Turnbull said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey on Thursday leapt to Mr Turnbull’s defence, saying he was doing his best to sell the budget message.
''Malcolm is putting in a huge effort as we all are in endeavouring to focus on the policies of the budget rather than the politics,'' Mr Hockey told Sky News.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, whose office sent out a transcript of the interview with Jones to the Canberra press gallery, said he believed Mr Turnbull ''doth protest too much'', and there was cleary division in the Liberal Party.
''But the issue of internal division within the Liberal Party is a matter for the Liberal Party. I more worried about what's happening to ordinary Australian families.
''I don’t give a toss about the internals of the Liberal Party.''
The Opposition Leader, however, used question time to heckle Mr Turnbull for his “outstanding” interview on Jones’ show.
Mr Shorten said the Minister for Communications “has been very busy communicating lately” and asked why Mr Turnbull had “gone on a media blitz to sell his own credentials rather than to sell this Prime Minister’s budget of broken promises?”
Mr Turnbull turned the attack back on the “tragic” “cat-calling” opposition and Mr Shorten.
“Madam Speaker, they say they don’t like cuts,” Mr Turnbull said.
“He’s been very good with the knife in the past.
“But he’s better at putting it into people’s backs.”