Liberal MPs, who feared their government was on the verge of electoral oblivion, called on Josh Friedenberg to challenge Scott Morrison last September, but failed to persuade the former treasurer to turn against his leader.
Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, one of a number of moderate lawmakers who approached Friedenberg with the idea of a coup, confirmed that previous discussions had taken place, but the conspiracy faltered after Friedenberg declared his loyalty to the prime minister.
“It is clear that colleagues always take into account the duration of the election,” he said.
Former Liberal MP NSW Jason Falinski, who lost his seat to stand out with independent Sophie Scamps, also confirmed The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that he was campaigning for a change of leader.
“There have been no serious talks about replacing the prime minister,” he said.
Friedenberg declined to comment.