Bishop top tip if Abbott falls

Power play: Julie Bishop and Tony Abbott. Picture: Getty Images

Julie Bishop is firming as favourite among disgruntled backbenchers to replace Tony Abbott amid mounting internal dissatisfaction over the Prime Minister's leadership.

But coalition MPs say Social Services Minister Scott Morrison is testing his support in the party room in preparation for a possible challenge.

Nervous coalition MPs are looking to tomorrow's Queensland State election as a possible flashpoint to force the leadership issue.

The latest polls show the Liberal National Party is set to lose a swag of seats in Queensland, with Premier Campbell Newman's among those in danger.

Mr Abbott is likely to cop much of the blame should the result prove a disaster, with Queenslanders complaining the PM's poor standing is a serious drag on the LNP vote.

Senior ministers yesterday rallied around Mr Abbott's chief of staff Peta Credlin after media mogul Rupert Murdoch called on her to do her "patriotic duty" and resign for the good of the country.

Ministers and backbenchers said yesterday Mr Abbott had lost authority and momentum and admitted something needed to change.

While still well short of agreeing about the need for change at the top, coalition MPs are workshopping possible leadership options.

Most see Ms Bishop as Mr Abbott's natural successor.

"She would do very well in the ballot," one MP said.

Backbenchers stressed Ms Bishop, the Foreign Minister, was not actively campaigning for the top job.

It is understood Ms Bishop has been urging coalition MPs to give Mr Abbott maximum support and "clean air" to argue the Government's agenda.

Options for deputy leader being touted include Mr Morrison and Trade Minister Andrew Robb.

_The West Australian _understands conservatives would not cop Malcolm Turnbull as leader or deputy but could live with him becoming treasurer in the event of a spill.

_The West Australian _has been told Mr Morrison and his supporters are canvassing backbenchers.

Another backbencher said it was clear Mr Abbott was not up to the job.

He said that with disenchantment spreading, a move could potentially come as early as the first sitting week of Parliament, which resumes on February 9. "Frontbenchers are waiting for backbenchers to pull the trigger," the MP said.