Abetz gets PM backing after ticket drop

Eric Abetz has received the backing of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Tasmania.
Eric Abetz has received the backing of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Tasmania.

The prime minister has singled out senior Liberal Eric Abetz for endorsement after the party stalwart was demoted on the latest Senate ticket.

Addressing the Tasmanian Liberals State Council on Saturday, Scott Morrison backed the island's party candidates as Australia heads towards a federal election.

"We need to win those three seats in the Senate there in Tasmania and no one is more deserving of that term than Senator Eric Abetz," Mr Morrison told the party faithful in Launceston via video link from Canberra.

"Eric is an iron of the Liberal party, particularly Tasmania, and of our cause over a lifetime of service, and I know that he will leave no stone unturned and nor can we in Tasmania in ensuring we get our whole team back in the Senate at the next election."

Senator Abetz, who has for years led Tasmania's Liberal upper house ticket, was in May placed third behind outer ministry senate colleague Jonno Duniam and Senator Wendy Askew, who won first and second place respectively.

At the time Senator Abetz, 63, who assumed office in 1994, said it was for "other people to decide" whether the Liberal's ticket selection was based on merit.

"My argument to people would be: If you needed the best barrister in the world or a heart surgeon, would your first question be how old is the person or what gender is the person or would you say are they the best of their trade?" he told Triple M.

The prime minister used his Saturday address to congratulate the island state's COVID-19 management, noting that Tasmania's vaccination rate was among the nation's best.

"Tasmania has the highest rate of vaccination of any state," he said.

"For the the population, over 16, it's a 45 per cent rate already on first doses. And an over 20 per cent rate on second doses - the highest rate of any state in the country."

Mr Morrison noted that the ACT and Northern Territory had higher rates on some measures.

Tasmania's majority Liberal government was returned to power in May for a record third term.

Australian Associated Press