SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was fighting for his job Wednesday after backbenchers publicly called for a Liberal Party leadership challenge following months of tensions stoked by fading poll numbers and policy backflips.
A handful of MPs openly revolted late Tuesday against the conservative leader, whose recent decision to make Britain’s Prince Philip a knight helped bring simmering anger to the surface.
But Abbott was quick to hit back Wednesday, brushing aside concerns and vowing to hold steady.
West Australian MP Dennis Jensen was the first to say the prime minister had to go.
“I don’t think the leader and his office are listening and communicating effectively,” Jensen told ABC television.
“I believe that it is necessary that this is brought to a head and lanced.”
Queensland MP Warren Entsch reportedly said “something has got to come to a head” and that he would seek a resolution when Liberal Party MPs and Senators meet on February 10.
Former minister Mal Brough, another Queensland MP, also broke ranks, telling Sky News, “I don’t have unequivocal support for the prime minister today.”
“The matter needs to be resolved and if Tuesday is the appropriate time for people to talk about it … then it’s for them to say so.”
He ruled out challenging Abbott.
Asked on Sydney’s 2GB radio if his leadership was “terminal” the prime minister replied, “I am determined to deliver steady, stable, solid, dependable government and that’s what I’m going to do, every day.”
Abbott described the revolt as just a sign of a “robust” Liberal Party room – the meeting of all members of the party in both houses of Parliament.