Bishop says she will not challenge Abbott

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    Julie Bishop says she won't challenge Tony Abbott for leadership, nor is she rounding up backbench support

    By political correspondent Emma Griffiths
    Updated 37 minutes agoTue 3 Feb 2015, 4:15pm
    Photo: Julie Bishop (right) says she will not challenge Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party. (AAP: Alan Porritt, file photo)
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    Map: Australia
    Julie Bishop has told her Cabinet colleagues, including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, that she will not challenge him for the leadership and is not calling backbenchers to round up support.
    Ms Bishop made the statement during a Cabinet meeting in Canberra this afternoon, which has been called by Mr Abbott to plan the Government's agenda for 2015.
    Mr Abbott has been battling to quash speculation that his leadership is under threat, triggered by growing concern in Coalition ranks about his poor personal polling and the loss of conservative governments in Victoria and Queensland.
    The most likely contenders for the leadership are Ms Bishop, former leader Malcolm Turnbull and frontbencher Scott Morrison.
    The three are known to be in discussion about the party's woes.
    This afternoon - two hours after the Cabinet meeting began - Ms Bishop's office released these quotes:
    "I am not campaigning for the job of prime minister, I am not ringing the backbench asking for support," the Foreign Minister told Cabinet.
    "I am not counting any numbers, I will not challenge the leader."
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    While the statement indicates Ms Bishop will not instigate a leadership spill, it does not rule her out of the race.
    She could stand if another MP moves to open the leadership positions.
    Her statement also does not lock in her support behind Mr Abbott.
    Cabinet has been meeting in a special extended gathering which will include the full ministry tomorrow.
    Mr Abbott will host a BBQ for his frontbench colleagues this evening in his courtyard at Parliament House.
    Earlier today he declared it was "Back to Work Tuesday" and repeatedly sidestepped questions about a reported exchange with Ms Bishop on the weekend, in which she refused to give him a commitment that she would not challenge him for the leadership.
    "Julie and I - we're friends. We are part of the leadership team," Mr Abbott said.
    "We support each other. We always have and we always will."

    Dave R.
 
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