Labor leader Bill Shorten has called on Tony Abbott to show leadership and tackle head on the socially divisive views of some of his backbench MPs.

Mr Shorten's comments come ahead of a meeting in Canberra on Wednesday between Parliament's presiding officers and security officials, during which a decision will be made on a request by Liberal senator Cory Bernardi to ban the burqa from being worn inside the building.

Fairfax Media has revealed Mr Abbott's most senior adviser, Peta Credlin, expressed support for a ban when advising Nationals MP George Christensen, who is also pushing for the headwear to be outlawed, on how better to prosecute the argument without inflaming tensions.

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