Scott Morrison has defended his controversial intervention to save Liberal party conservative MP Craig Kelly from a preselection which could have blasted him out of his safe Sydney seat of Hughes.
The prime minister acted to secure Mr Kelly's political future earlier this week by directing the party's powerful NSW executive to use emergency powers to endorse all sitting MPs for the next federal election.
"There are four incumbent members - four incumbent members - that I believed it was important for the party to re-endorse for the next election," Mr Morrison told reporters on Wednesday.
"As the leader of the parliamentary party, it's my job to maximise the party's chances and standing at the next election.
"And with four incumbent members - members who have been on the ground, members who are well respected by their communities - they present the best opportunity to ensure the re-election of the government."
The three other MPs are Jason Falinski, John Alexander and Lucy Wicks.
The decision to suspend NSW Liberal preselections has deeply divided the party's moderate faction, whose three state executive representatives agreed to abstain from a vote so the move could go ahead.
Preselection races were called off despite an extraordinary intervention from former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, who publicly attacked the plan.
"As party leader I made it pretty clear I wanted them (sitting MPs) endorsed and I wanted them on the ground finding the next election, not getting distracted by anything else," Mr Morrison said.
"That's my main mission, that's their mission, and as leader I made a call, I said I want them endorsed, and the party backed me and I appreciate their support."
He also alluded to his decision not to intervene to save NSW Liberal senator Jim Molan, who has been relegated to a seemingly unwinnable spot on the party's ticket for the next election.
Mr Morrison said governments were formed in the lower house.
"That's where my focus is, to ensure the re-election of the government," he said.
The prime minister distanced himself from the dumping of Queensland MP Jane Prentice, who lost a preselection battle in May.
"I wasn't the prime minister at the time of Ms Prentice's preselection so I can't make any comment about that," he said.
"That matter was dealt with many, many months ago."
Australian Associated Press