Tony Abbott’s leadership was saved in part by a last-minute email campaign by a conservative group which denigrated Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop.
The prime minister survived a Liberal leadership spill motion last month by 61 votes to 39.
The size of the vote sent shockwaves across the government, which since then has ditched a number of controversial policies such as the Medicare co-payment in a bid to satisfy disgruntled coalition backbenchers.
ABC’s Four Corners program revealed on Monday a key conservative group, the National Civic Council, was so worried for the prime minister that it launched an email campaign.
The campaign asked people to email their federal Liberal MPs to ask them to support Mr Abbott in the spill.
One of those who received the email, barrister Robert Colquhoun, told the program he was astonished by it.
“I was being told that I should write to all the politicians, all the Liberal Party, telling them that if Tony Abbott was disposed (of) I would not vote for the Liberal Party at the next election,” he said.
The NCC email said Mr Abbott had “held the line” on marriage and repealed the carbon tax.
“Whatever his failings, the alternatives are Malcolm Turnbull, who failed as leader, and Julie Bishop, who was forced to resign as shadow treasurer,” the email issued by NCC vice-president Pat Byrne said.
Four Corners aired fresh criticism of the PM’s chief of staff Peta Credlin and the conflict of interest of having her husband Brian Loughnane as the Liberal Party’s federal director.
A leaked text message from party treasurer Philip Higginson to a senior Liberal member described Ms Credlin as “the Horsewoman of the Apocalypse”.
Mr Higginson said in another message he hoped Ms Credlin’s removal could be negotiated because “she has `effed’ the parliamentary wing thru (sic) her non-understanding of team harmony … and she has `effed’ the organisational wing …”
Liberal senator Ian Macdonald told Four Corners that having a husband and wife as the principal advisers for the party and government “doesn’t make for a good interaction between the parliamentary wing and the organisational wing”.
“I’ve always thought that was unfortunate and I would hope that something might be done about that,” he said.
Ms Bishop told reporters the latest internal party leaks are damaging and should stop.
“It’s always unfortunate if there are leaks to the media that are damaging in any political party,” she said.
“Anything of that nature is obviously most unfortunate and shouldn’t be said.”