After being seen as a pivotal critic of Tony Abbott and a public supporter for the leadership spill, Arthur Sinodinos is expected to offer help to his leader in the months ahead, according to a report in The Australian.

The Murdoch paper states that although many of the prime minister’s supporters, particularly in NSW, regard Senator Sinodinos as an enemy of Mr Abbott at war with his office, the senator is ­believed to be reaching out to Mr Abbott and offering to help.

Senator Sinodinos’ experience as a senior political adviser may help revive the government’s standing in politics and policy. He was John Howard’s chief of staff in 2001 when the then Coalition government was in dire trouble but managed to turn the situation around without changing leaders.

Despite claims he was supporting Malcolm Turnbull, Senator ­Sinodinos has denied to colleagues “doing the numbers” for the Communications Minister and said his criticisms were about process and management.

Before Christmas, as he resigned as assistant treasurer, an angry Senator Sinodinos made a number of public recommendations for Mr Abbott about shuffling his cabinet, creating a science minister and promoting more women. Mr Abbott took steps on all three.

But Senator Sinodinos caused a media storm last week when he said his support for Mr Abbott was “not unconditional”.

Although the media portrayed him as an “Abbott loyalist” ­because of his links with Mr Howard and Mr Abbott when he was a minister, the Prime Minister’s ­Office did not regard him as such and was not surprised by his comments. His remarks, on Sky News, fuelled expectation of a leadership spill motion to remove Mr Abbott, and added a higher profile to the group of dissidents complaining about Mr Abbott’s leadership.

Later he added to the calls for a spill, saying he would support it, and criticised Mr ­Abbott’s decision to bring forward the vote. “I am disappointed the partyroom meeting has been brought forward. MPs should be given adequate time to discuss the matter at hand,” he said.

Before Christmas there was speculation within the Liberal Party that Senator Sinodinos could be given some form of advisory role, such as a cabinet secretary, but that did not happen and is not considered likely to happen this year.