New whip team sparks Liberal debate

Tony Abbott's appointment of a new team of whips has sparked debate over what their role should be. (AAP)

The decision to sack Philip Ruddock as chief government whip and appoint a new team has set off a debate in the Liberals.

Tony Abbott's appointment of a new team of whips has sparked debate over what their role should be and whether the PM was forewarned of backbench anger.

Mr Abbott on Friday sacked veteran MP and former minister Philip Ruddock as chief government whip, replacing him with Queenslander Scott Buchholz.

The prime minister changed the team because he felt blindsided by backbenchers' concerns, leading to last week's leadership spill motion, which lost 61-39.

Mr Buchholz will be supported by deputies Andrew Nikolic and Nola Marino.

Liberal frontbencher Eric Abetz said on Monday he particularly welcomed the appointment of Mr Nikolic, a first-term Tasmanian MP and former Army brigadier.

"I believe he is an inspired choice to be part of the whips team," Senator Abetz said.

"Mr Nikolic took a very strong view as to what people should and should not be doing and what Mr Nikolic will be inviting everybody to do is to keep the channels of communications internal."

Former whip Warren Entsch told AAP he disagreed with Senator Abetz's assessment, saying it was a whip's role to give MPs the freedom and confidence to express their frustrations and concerns.

"The job is not to gag - it's to make sure there is the right level of connectivity between the leader's office and the backbench," Mr Entsch said.

Mr Ruddock said at the weekend the prime minister had not expressed any concerns about his performance as chief whip before he lost the job.

Mr Abbott told reporters on Monday that "renewing" the whips team was not unusual.

"That's what governments do from time to time - they renew themselves so that they can focus more and better on the interests of the Australian people," Mr Abbott said.

One MP told AAP the prime minister would have been well aware of backbench concerns about his leadership, as the prime minister had been the subject of a formal complaint to the whip on at least one occasion.

Another MP said it went against the prime minister's commitment of no recriminations following the spill.

"It's poor optics at the end of a week when you are meant to be healing the wounds," the MP said.

Liberal frontbencher Julie Bishop said Mr Abbott had many ways to keep in touch with his team.

"The prime minister has many avenues open to him to engage with the backbench - the whip's office is one of them," Ms Bishop said.

Another frontbencher, Scott Morrison, said Mr Ruddock had taken on the job as chief whip at the request of the PM.

"He's a very loyal, a very trusted and a very respected colleague."

Source AAP

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