Abbott survives leadership test

Abott

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has survived a party confidence vote on his leadership.

Liberal Party MPs voted by 61 to 39 not to open up his position to challengers.

The leadership test, initiated by a backbencher on Friday, came after a series of policy mis-steps by Mr Abbott that saw his popularity tumble.

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull had been seen as a likely challenger if the vote passed but in the end the party rallied round the PM.

The result of the vote, brought forward from Tuesday, was announced by Chief Whip Philip Ruddock.

“The Liberal Party has met, we have had a ballot, it was properly conducted. The result is very clear. No 61. Yes 39,” he said.

Mr Abbott said the leadership issue was now behind the party and that the focus was on jobs, families, a stronger economy and greater national security.

He said when voters elected a government and a prime minister the public deserved to keep that government and that prime minister “until you change your mind”.

“The challenge is to work with you, not against you,” he said. “I love this country and I will do my best to help this country succeed.”

Mr Abbott had earlier pledged to fight any challenge, saying his Liberal Party was “not going to repeat the chaos and the instability” of the opposition Labor party, which lost office in 2013 after a series of leadership crises.

But the conservative leader has faced criticism in recent weeks for giving an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.

His party also suffered a comprehensive defeat in Queensland state elections, which many attributed to dissatisfaction with the prime minister.

Several of his policies, such as a controversial GP payment plan and a change to university funding, had proved unpopular with voters.

And on Monday morning, a poll published in The Australian newspaperput satisfaction with his performance down at 24%, his lowest figure in five years.

The poll also showed the ruling Liberal-National coalition behind Labor by 43% to 57%.

Mr Turnbull is preferred over Mr Abbott by voters across the political spectrum, but trails him in terms of support from Liberal voters.