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Australian PM Abbott faces leadership challenge

14 september 2015, 15:29

High-profile Australian minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party, saying the premier could not win the next election, AFP reports.

With the conservative coalition government under pressure in opinion polls, Turnbull said Abbott's administration had been unable to provide "the economic leadership our nation needs".

"I met with the prime minister and advised him that I would be challenging him for the leadership of the Liberal Party, and I asked him to arrange or facilitate a meeting of the party room to enable a leadership ballot to be held," Turnbull said in Canberra.

A millionaire former barrister from an upmarket Sydney electorate, Turnbull has long been considered the main challenger to Abbott who won power from a divided Labor Party in 2013.

Earlier on Monday, Abbott had brushed off speculation of a challenge, telling reporters: "I just am not going to get caught up in Canberra gossip, I'm not going to play Canberra games."

He has not yet commented on the move from Turnbull, who resigned as communications minister Monday.

Abbott survived a threat to his leadership in February, but Turnbull said the prime minister had still not been able to unite the electorate behind the government and his policies.

"This course of action has been urged on me by many people over a long period of time," Turnbull said, adding he had not taken the decision lightly.

"We need a different style of leadership."

Turnbull said if the Liberal Party was to continue with Abbott as prime minister, the next election  -- expected to be held some time in 2016 -- would be lost to opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten.

"Now if we continue with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister, it is clear enough what will happen. He will cease to be prime minister and he'll be succeeded by Mr Shorten," Turnbull said. 

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