Australian PM Survives Leadership Challenge

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has survived a challenge to his leadership after his ruling Liberal Party voted down a motion to unseat him after weeks of infighting.

Tony-Abbott

In a secret party room ballot, a vote to declare the positions of party leader and deputy leader vacant was defeated by 61 votes to 39, a party official said.

Liberal Party MP Luke Simpkins had called for the motion amid what he called growing dissatisfaction with Mr Abbott’s leadership.

In a televised statement following the vote, Mr Abbott insisted the turmoil was over and called for unity within the conservative party and the country.

“The Liberal Party has dealt with the spill motion and now this matter is behind us,” he said.

“We think that when you elect a government, when you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keep that government and that prime minister until you have a chance to change your mind.”

But the large number of votes against Mr Abbott indicate a lack of support so damaging as to potentially render him a lame duck.

Rod Tiffen, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Sydney, said: “It does suggest to me continuing instability, because 40% of your party has just expressed no confidence in you.

“I think that it means leadership speculation will be on the agenda in Australian politics until it’s resolved by Abbott’s exit, really.”

Mr Abbott has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over policy decisions ranging from his handling of the economy to awarding an Australian knighthood to the Queen’s 93-year-old husband, Prince Philip.

The former trainee Catholic priest went into office with a comfortable majority in September 2013 – but, after less than 18 months in power, his popularity has plummeted.

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