Embattled Australian PM dismisses speculation election, over direction

Embattled Australian PM dismisses speculation election, over direction


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott disregarded mounting speculation on Monday that his position is in risk, playing down talk that he may call a snap election to stem off a direction coup from within his own party.

Abbott emerged weakened by lawmakers in his own Liberal Party from a leadership challenge in February, which came about after weeks of infighting and dismal poll numbers, and pledged a new spirit of conciliation.

He and his government have since consistently lagged the center-left opposition Labor Party in opinion polls, helping fuel speculation over the length of time his party would give him to turn things around.

A by-election in a generally safe Liberal seat in Western Australia state is being observed carefully amid speculation a poor showing could possibly be used as a cause to remove Abbott and install a more popular alternative.

“I just am not going to get caught up in Canberra rumor, I’m not likely to play Canberra games,” Abbot told reporters in the southern city of Adelaide, referring to political maneuvering in the Australian capital.

“I anticipate that the government will proceed to the center of next year and perhaps a bit beyond, because that is what we were elected to do three years back,” he said.

The February challenge followed criticism of ruling as well as Abbott’s leadership style, including his decision to give Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip an Australian knighthood.

Abbott has continued to defy popular opinion inside as well as outside his party, despite pledging to be more consultative, blocking his MPs from supporting same-sex marriage and announcing an emissions reduction goal criticized as insufficient by environmental groups.

A Fairfax-Ipsos poll released on Monday showed that voters in the seat of Canning in Western Australia could give a swing of up to 10 percent against the government in Saturday’s by-election.

That would not be adequate for Labor to win the seat but it would be seen from a scheduled general election just a year out as a disastrous consequence for the leadership of Abbott.

No one in the Liberal Party has openly put up their hand to challenge Abbott, but former party leader Malcolm Turnbull and Communications Minister is viewed as a likely successor.