Federal Coalition MPs have rounded on independent Rob Oakeshott telling him to toughen up and accept criticism of his policy positions.
Mr Oakeshott reportedly abandoned his weekly meeting with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, citing “personal attacks” from the Coalition.
The final straw was a comment from Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey that a vote for an independent was a vote for Labor.
Mr Hockey relayed that message on behalf of veteran broadcaster Alan Jones during a function in his electorate on Friday night, Fairfax newspapers said.
Nationals MP Darren Chester admits policy jibes have been directed at Mr Oakeshott, but none of them were personal.
“He needs to toughen up a bit, (politics) is a rough and tumble world,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
Mr Oakeshott sided with the Gillard government “almost inevitably” and he risked being seen as “a Labor stooge”.
Mr Chester urged Mr Oakeshott to meet Mr Abbott, but says any suggestion he will back the coalition into government is a tale that starts “with a once upon a time”. “It’s a fairytale, it would never happen.”
Liberal backbencher Andrew Laming says politicians are “all big girls and boys”.
“Rob Oakeshott is big, strong and mature enough to be able to take the hurly-burly,” he said, adding the weekly meeting with Mr Abbott was “advantageous”.
Liberal MP Dennis Jensen questioned parliament’s so-called “new paradigm”, saying the independents should hold weekly meetings with both sides of politics.
Liberal frontbencher Bob Baldwin said Mr Oakeshott had, on occasions, failed to represent his NSW mid-north coast electorate independently, citing the coalition’s proposed changes to youth allowance.
Mr Oakeshott this week sided with Labor to vote down the proposal in the lower house.