Sydney (AFP) – Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday his government had “lessons to learn” from a state election rout in Queensland, amid growing leadership questions after his unpopular move to knight Britain’s Prince Philip.
Rumours of challenges to Abbott’s position as prime minister have emerged over the past week after the knighthood decision. But the demise of the Liberal-National coalition (LNP) in Queensland elections held Saturday has piled further pressure on him.
The LNP, which is also the ruling coalition nationally, swept to victory in Queensland three years ago to record the state’s biggest ever parliamentary triumph when it took 78 of 89 seats.
But in one of the most startling turnarounds in the nation’s political history, the opposition Labor party – written off after the last election – appeared close to returning to power in the northeastern state as vote-counting continued.
“There are obviously lessons in the election result last night and we’re determined to learn them in Canberra,” Abbott told reporters, adding that he regretted the “distraction” of the knighthood debate.
“I accept that we’ve had some difficulties. I accept that we need to learn from the difficulties that we’ve had, but in the end, government is not a popularity contest, it is a competence contest.”
Abbott’s government has seen its support plunge in opinion polls over the past year, coming under fire for its attempts to push through widespread spending cuts to rein in a growing budget deficit.
The latest poll published by The Sunday Telegraph Sunday showed the government would be heading for defeat if it called an election now. Support has dropped to 43 percent from 53.5 percent when they won the 2013 election, compared to Labor’s 57 per cent.