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Rifts open as Australia's new PM reshuffles cabinet

18 september 2015, 17:02

The man tipped to become Australia's next treasurer Scott Morrison in a looming cabinet reshuffle angrily defended himself against accusations Friday he had betrayed former prime minister Tony Abbott, AFP reports.

Social Services Minister Morrison rejected the idea that he had made a deal with new Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull so he could be promoted after the political assassination of Abbott.

"I had no role in his demise," he said of Abbott who was removed in a vote as leader of the right-leaning Liberal Party, and government, on Monday. 

Morrison said he had warned Abbott about the prospect of a challenge, and told the prime minister's office last week that "things were pretty febrile and they should be on high alert".

Morrison is tipped to be promoted to treasurer under Turnbull, a social liberal, despite voting for Abbott in the leadership contest in Canberra. 

He said Friday that he had never made such a deal with Turnbull and only Abbott had offered him the job so far and he had refused.

"He (Abbott) offered me the job of treasurer hours out from that ballot," Morrison said in a fiery exchange on commercial radio where he was asked to swear his comments were true on a Bible.

"I can't understand why I was being offered that job when he had showed such strong support for (current Treasurer) Joe Hockey -- he was asking me to throw Joe Hockey under a bus."

As Turnbull prepares to announce his new cabinet, The Australian newspaper reported there were now ructions within the Liberal Party over how those who helped him stage his coup, would be rewarded. 

"No one believes that any of the protagonists have clean hands," one unnamed MP told the paper.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said it was "hard to say" whether he would keep his position after supporting Abbott.

Among those reportedly instrumental in Turnbull's rise was Queensland Senator James McGrath, who in 2008 helped British Conservative Boris Johnson win his Mayor of London campaign.

But he may miss out on a portfolio as Turnbull is considered more likely to increase the number of women in the 19-member cabinet from the current two, distancing himself from the unpopular Abbott who was accused of sexism and outdated thinking.

Abbott, under whose leadership the government plunged in the polls, has insisted he would not "white ant" or undermine the new leadership.

A Galaxy poll released Friday showed Turnbull had already dragged the government's standing higher to 51 percent compared to the opposition Labor's 49 percent, the first time it has been in a winning position since May 2014.

The poll of 1,224 voters taken on Monday and Tuesday also had Turnbull as preferred prime minister at 51 percent compared to Labor leader Bill Shorten's 20 percent.  

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