But both senators deny there is any rift between them, despite insistence from party sources that there is a frantic scramble for the top position on the party’s Senate ticket at the next election.
Senator Abetz is under siege from some party members who want to see him dumped from the safe no. 1 spot.
There is an organised push to have Senator Barnett preselected at the top of the ticket over Senator Abetz.
Both have to recontest their seats in the next half-Senate election, and the make-up of the party’s new 61-member preselection panel appears to be leaning against Senator Abetz.
Senator Barnett has publicly stated that Senator Abetz, Special Minister of State, deserves to go into the next election at the top of the ticket.
But party sources said yesterday that Senator Barnett had rethought his strategy out of concern for his own position.
Until recently it was assumed that Senators Abetz and Barnett would go into the election as nos. 1 and 2 respectively.
But a concerted move to have a female candidate preselected to the no. 2 position means that whichever senator does not win the top spot could find himself relegated to the less secure third spot.
Liberal sources said yesterday that Senator Barnett would no longer be talking up Senator Abetz but would instead focus on his own campaign.
“He is very conscious that there is a big push on within the party for a female candidate to take second spot,” one source said.
“He knows he has to forget Abetz and concentrate on himself, because he is worried about where he will end up on the ticket.”
A spokesman for Senator Barnett said there was no growing distance between the two senators, and that Senator Barnett was just getting on with his job.
Senator Abetz has said nothing on the matter since news of his crumbling support first broke.
Some within the party now see him as the underdog – a status that one source said Senator Abetz was counting on in order to win a sympathy vote.
A spokesman for Senator Abetz said yesterday that he and Senator Barnett continued to work well together and both expected to be returned to the Senate.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.