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Australien Premierminister Tony Abbott 08.01.2015
Image: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images

Australia's Abbott facing challenge

February 6, 2015

Dwindling public survey results for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have erupted into an open leadership challenge within his Liberal Party. Detractors are seeking a caucus ballot to replace him next Tuesday.

https://p.dw.com/p/1EWLm

Dwindling public survey results for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have erupted into an open leadership challenge within his Liberal Party. Detractors are seeking a caucus ballot to replace him next Tuesday.

Liberal backbenchers from Western Australian branch declared a revolt against Abbott's leadership on Friday, halfway through his three-year term as prime minister.

Removing Abbott would require more than 51 votes among 102 members of governing Liberals' "party room," which comprises members in Canberra's lower and upper houses.

Australian media said weeks of disquiet erupted on Friday when western Liberal Luke Simpkins sent an email to colleagues, writing that he would seek the vote on Tuesday.

"I think we must bring this to a head and test the support of the leadership," Simpkins wrote.

Dennis Jensen, also a Liberal West Australian, had signaled on Tuesday that he had lost confidence in Abbott.

The Sydney Morning Herald said party whip Philip Ruddock has put the vote on the agenda Tuesday's Liberal caucus meeting.

'Getting on with government'

Potential successors slated by media include Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who has so far ruled out a direct contest against Abbott.

Abbott on Friday told reporters, "I'm expecting us to get on with government, that's what I'm expecting."

"I have spoken to deputy leader Julie Bishop and we will stand together in urging the party room to defeat this particular motion," Abbott said.

Conservative state election losses

A slump in Abbott's ratings has been blamed in part for fellow conservative governments suffering recent regional state election losses - in Victoria in November and Queensland in January.

Abbott drew criticism in recent weeks over economic policy and his decision last month to award an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip.

Simpkins said in his email that the knighthood for Prince Philip was "the final proof of a disconnection with the people."

Some Australians also accuse Australia's government of abandoning refugees.

The prime minister recently warned against a challenge, saying Australians had elected his conservative Liberals in 2013 to replace a fractious center-left Labor government. It changed its prime minister twice in four years.

"We are not the Labor Party and we are not going to repeat the chaos and the instability of the Labor years," he added on Friday.

ipj/sms (AP, Reuters)

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