Prime Minister Tony Abbott says every day is a test for him, his ministers and the government.
The coalition and Labor will go head-to-head in the September 19 Canning by-election in Western Australia, triggered by the death of Liberal MP Don Randall.
A Newspoll shows the election could deliver a swing of 10 per cent away from the government in the wake of a split among ministers over same-sex marriage and a series of poorly-received “captain’s picks” by Mr Abbott.
But the coalition is expected to hold the seat.
Asked whether the by-election was a test of his leadership, Mr Abbott told reporters in Yass on Wednesday: “There is a sense that every day is testing for government, for ministers and prime ministers.”
The government would take a strong message about jobs, growth and community safety to the by-election, as well as a good candidate in former SAS Captain Andrew Hastie, he said.
Cabinet minister Eric Abetz has launched a stinging attack on some of his colleagues, calling them “gutless” for leaking to reporters.
Mr Abbott said his message to all ministers and backbenchers was that the government is “getting on with the job”.
Senator Abetz said giving “unattributed comments” to journalists was a breach of cabinet rules.
Asked whether there would be consequences for leakers, Mr Abbott said: “Everyone knows what the rules are.”
Treasurer Joe Hockey said he would not entertain the question of whether Mr Abbott’s position as prime minister was in jeopardy.
“As far as I’m concerned it is jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s what I’m focused on … and the same with Tony Abbott,” Mr Hockey told Radio 3AW.
Mr Hockey, who intends campaigning in Canning, said good policy is what won elections.
“Getting on with the job of creating jobs, that’s what matters,” he said.