Liberal Senator attacks Turnbull over denying coup rumours

A CONSERVATIVE Liberal Senator has hit out at Abbott Government frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull's attack on suggestions he was agitating for a return to the Liberal leadership.

Mr Turnbull was reacting to News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt's article on Monday, which had speculated that Mr Turnbull was vying for a return to the Liberal leadership, after he went to dinner with Queensland MP Clive Palmer.

But Mr Turnbull's comments, including saying the columnist's piece was "bordering on the unhinged", sparked harsh criticism from his Liberal colleague, South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi.

While Prime Minister Tony Abbott has largely dismissed the leadership speculation, he told ABC Radio he was not interested in "who has meals with whom" and that genial relationships with crossbenchers were part of selling the budget.

But Sen Bernardi, a key supporter of Mr Abbott's, said on ABC TV on Monday night said he thought Mr Turnbull's reaction to the column was "too strident", and was an "unwise thing to do".