Captain Abbott steers into the maelstrom

The term "captain's call" has become not-so-subtle code among Tony Abbott's detractors.

It's something akin to a Masonic handshake, with a wink and a nod thrown in for good measure.

Captain Abbott's steely-eyed focus on national security has delivered a political windfall for the coalition.

The latest Morgan Poll trimmed Labor's lead by 1.5 points to 56-44 in two-party terms, while Newspoll found primary support for the government rising three points to put the two-party position at 53-47 in Labor's favour.

However, the Newspoll also showed 77 per cent of voters considered Abbott to be arrogant and only one-third said he was in touch with the concerns of voters.

The pick-up in the polls was somewhat dulled by damaging leaks questioning fresh captain's calls by the PM and problems within his office.

The Australian reported that Abbott last November unilaterally backed sending 3500 troops into Iraq - a claim he and senior Defence officials dismissed as "fanciful" and "false".

Then the government was rocked by Liberal Party federal treasurer and chief fundraiser Philip Higginson quitting his role, citing "vitriol and pent-up animosities" within the party.

He took aim at the untenable conflict of interest within Abbott's office with a husband and wife, Brian Loughnane and Peta Credlin, as Liberal federal director and the PM's chief of staff.

Higginson's view reflected that of many Liberal MPs, including ministers, who believe Credlin wields too much power within the government.

The PM stood by his staff and dismissed the leaked letter as "a storm in a teacup".

"I stand by my team," the captain declared, again.

However, pollster Gary Morgan says that despite the PM's intention to tough out the leaks "the fact that these leaks are emerging suggests there is a level of disunity within the federal Liberal Party at the moment in regards to Abbott's prime ministership".

Also distracting the government this week was debate over whether Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs was offered a high-powered job in exchange for her stepping down.

Abbott said he had no confidence in Triggs over her report into children in immigration detention, which he described as "political stitch-up".

However the federal police are now examining claims - which came out of Senate estimates hearings - that Attorney-General George Brandis, through an intermediary, made the job offer to Triggs.

Yet-declared leadership aspirant Malcolm Turnbull declined to criticise Triggs, saying the government should be focusing on its success in getting children out of detention.

Turnbull instead described the commissioner as "a very distinguished international legal academic".

The incident highlighted the difference between Abbott's conservative backers - some of whom want the Human Rights Commission abolished - and those in the Liberals who see merit in sticking to the centre while attracting moderate voters.

Abbott is aware that he is on notice, having survived a motion to spill the leadership on February 9.

One sign of this awareness was a meeting on Monday involving cabinet ministers and chairs of party room policy committees, which delivered on Abbott's promise to consult more.

The result of the meeting, according to Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop, was a commitment to see each new policy decision through the eyes of MPs in their various seats.

However, many Liberal MPs remain confused about what controversial policies have been dropped.

Former minister Arthur Sinodinos suggested more "dialogue" is needed on such moves as kicking under-30s off the dole for six months.

MPs also fear that adding fuel to the fire - such as overhauling the welfare payments system, after a report released this week - will only worsen the mood in voter-land.

No one in the party has a clear sense of where the tension is leading, but there is despair with every captain's call.

As one Liberal MP told AAP this week: "Everything is feeding in to the swirl."

Sorry we are not currently accepting comments on this article.