Queensland election rout, opinion polls further blows to Tony Abbott

February 1, 2015 8:02 pm

’s address to the National Press Club today is being seen
as a leadership make or break event, as the Australian Prime Minister
urges colleagues not to “navel-gaze” after the shock election
result.
The routing of the Liberal National Party in Queensland
is a further blow to Abbott’s grip on the top job, already weakened by
his controversial decision to award Prince Philip a knighthood.
But in the wake of the disastrous state poll a determined Prime Minister defended his leadership.
Government wasn’t a popularity contest but “a competence contest”, he said yesterday.
“I
don’t say for a second that we haven’t made mistakes. I don’t say for a
second that we can’t do things better. But I am not going to be
distracted from the essential task of giving this country the good
government that it deserves.”

’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo / AP

The Queensland election debacle came as a series of polls
showed the federal Coalition heading for certain defeat. A new Fairfax
Ipsos poll yesterday showed Labor ahead by 54 to 46 per cent. A Galaxy
Poll published by NewsCorp has the Government languishing on a two-party
vote of just 43 per cent.
Backbenchers have raised the prospect
of leadership change, with one, Jane Prentice, saying “we need to look
at where we’re going”.
Some media have reported federal
Queensland MP Mal Brough could challenge for the leadership, but only as
a “stalking horse” for serious contenders such as Malcolm Turnbull and
Julie Bishop.
But Turnbull said yesterday that he backed Abbott.
“The Prime Minister has the support of all members of his government, including me,” Turnbull told reporters in Los Angeles.
Bishop
also bushed aside leadership questions, after holding ministerial talks
with her British counterpart Philip Hammond. “The Prime Minister has my
support,” she told reporters in Sydney.
Another senior minister
said there was no appetite in the Coalition for leadership change,
despite concerns within the party room.
“We would be crazy to
repeat the experience of the last Labor government, which failed because
it tore down an elected leader,” Attorney-General George Brandis told
Sky .
But Dr Paul Williams, a senior lecturer in politics at Griffith University, says Abbott’s leadership is now in terminal decline.
“I think Tony Abbott will be removed and possibly within the next couple of weeks,” Williams said.
“There
are elements of arrogance in Abbott that voters also saw in [Queensland
Premier Campbell] Newman. The feedback is that neither Abbott nor
Campbell can be told. We saw it with the A$20 cut to the Medicare rebate
at the beginning of the year, which senior ministers had urged him not
to do. And then there was the knighthood captain’s pick. The NSW Libs
are angling to get rid of him so the Queensland and Victorian disease
does not affect the NSW election.”
Opposition leader Bill Shorten
told ABC television: “If they think it is the salesman, not what
they’re selling, then they will have learned nothing.”
The Queensland election
Premier: Campbell Newman first Qld Premier in century to lose seat. His LNP had 78 out of 89 seats in 2012.
Swing: 11.4% against LNP.
Seats:
45 needed for a majority, 5 too close to call – Gaven, Mansfield,
Maryborough, Redlands and Whitsunday. Labor 43 (9 before this election),
LNP 38 (76), Katter 2 (2), Independent 2 (1).
Lessons for federal politics:
• The electorate is volatile.
• It has thrown out a one-term government, not prepared to give it a second chance.
• It has been prepared to bring back Labor even though the previous Labor government had been unpopular.
• The combination of an unpopular leader and unpopular reforms has proved fatal for the LNP.

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