PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has maintained a happy front despite a damaging letter about a conflict of interest at the heart of the government and rising criticism of his leadership.
After facing down a leadership spill two weeks ago, and poll results showing the Coalition was holding its ground, Mr Abbott said yesterday on Channel Nine he still felt vigorous and at the height of his powers.
His comments followed a Newspoll on Tuesday that showed the Coalition picked up four points in the past fortnight, rising to 47% against Labor's 53% on the two-party preferred vote.
But Mr Abbott's leadership was thrown another challenge on Tuesday, in the form of a letter leaked to media from party treasurer Philip Higginson.
Mr Higginson's letter, shared with the party's federal executive, warned the party needed to end a "conflict of interest" at the heart of the government.
He wrote the conflict, of having Mr Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin married to the federal director Brian Loughnane, was affecting all of those linked to the party.
Backbenchers were concerned they could not go to the organisational wing of the party if they had concerns about the parliamentary leadership.
But Mr Abbott said the issue was a "fixation" with insider Canberra politics.
The tension in the parliamentary wing spilled over in the party room meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, when several MPs questioned Mr Abbott's decision to dump senior party figure Philip Ruddock as chief whip.
Other party members are understood to have raised concerns about Mr Abbott's continued attacks on Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs.