Australian prime minister won't risk job with ballot

AP News
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Posted: Feb 02, 2015 8:39 PM

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia's beleaguered prime minister on Tuesday ruled out throwing his job open to challengers with a leadership ballot to demonstrate his control over his government, warning colleagues that voters craved stability.

Only half way through his first three-year term as prime minister, Tony Abbott faces a revolt from within the ranks of his conservative government over poor opinion polling and unpopular policy directions.

Lawmakers within the ruling Liberal Party are pressuring Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the party's former leader, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Abbott's deputy, to challenge Abbott for the leadership in a ballot of Liberal lawmakers.

Abbott said he was not prepared to have a ballot that could show how many of his party colleagues support his leadership and how many were prepared to back a rival.

He said his coalition was elected in 2013 because the previous center-left Labor Party government descended into chaos and infighting, changing its prime minister twice in three years.

"The thing is that we were elected because people were sick of chaos," Abbott told reporters. "What I am determined to do is give Australia back the certainty and stability that people crave."

Abbott would neither confirm nor deny media reports that he asked Bishop this week for a commitment that she would not challenge him, but she refused.

Abbott used a speech on Monday to attempt to win over increasingly vocal critics within government ranks.

After angering many last week by making the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, an Australian knight, Abbott announced that from now on the Order of Australia Council would decide who would be made a knight or dame.

Abbott was widely criticized for resurrecting the titles a year ago. Some said it was evidence that he was stuck in a bygone era. Bestowing a knighthood on the 93-year-old Duke of Edinburgh on Australia's national day was seen as an insult to deserving Australian citizens.

A Liberal lawmaker Andrew Laming is threatening to further undermine Abbott's authority by introducing legislation into parliament that would abolish the titles knights and dames from the Australian honors list.

Abbott said on Tuesday he welcomed such "vigorous debate" among government lawmakers.

Leadership of the government is likely to be discussed at Cabinet meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.