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Australian PM Abbott survives bid to unseat him

09 february 2015, 13:55

 Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday survived a confidence vote on his leadership after just 17 months in power and urged an end to the disunity that has seen the government's popularity plummet., AFP reports.

Abbott has been fighting for his job after poor poll ratings and a series of policy backflips spurred some MPs from his conservative Liberal Party to openly attack him, calling for a leadership "spill" last week.

The motion aimed to declare vacant the positions of party leader and deputy leader, occupied by Abbott and Deputy Prime Minister Julie Bishop.

If it had succeeded, the party room, or Liberal Party members of both houses of parliament, could vote for new candidates.

But the 101 Liberal parliamentarians -- one was absent -- rejected the proposal by 61 to 39 in a secret ballot. One vote was deemed "informal" and discarded for either being incorrectly completed or not filled in at all.

"The Liberal Party has met, we have had a ballot, it was properly conducted. The result is very clear. No 61. Yes 39," said chief whip Philip Ruddock.

"That seems to me to resolve the matter."

In a brief televised statement, Abbott called for the party to end "disunity and uncertainty" and move forward.

"The Liberal Party has dealt with the spill motion and now this matter is behind us," he said.

"We are absolutely determined to work for you, the people who elected us. We want to end the disunity and the uncertainty which destroyed two Labor governments and give you the good government that you deserve."

Labor switched leaders twice during its time in power from 2007 to 2013, with Abbott highly critical at the time.

Abbott said on Monday that "when you elect a government, when you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keep that government and that prime minister until you have a chance to change your mind".

"So the focus now is once more on jobs, families, a stronger economy and a secure nation. We do face many challenges," he said.

"I love this country. I will do my best to help our country to succeed."

    Government in paralysis 

 The 57-year-old survived despite waking to a dire Newspoll in The Australian broadsheet, and the vote outcome is unlikely to end speculation about his future.

The poll showed the ruling Liberal-National coalition trails the Labor opposition on a two-party basis 43 percent to 57 percent, while 68 percent of the 1,178 people interviewed were dissatisfied with Abbott's performance.

His popularity lags far behind Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Bishop, both touted as potential leadership contenders, but who had not formally put their hand up as an alternative prime minister.

Opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten said the government was "in paralysis".

"Tony Abbott promised he would run a stable and united government. This is his biggest broken promise yet," he said.

"The prime minister and ministers should be protecting the living standards and jobs of all Australians -- but they're only interested in their own jobs."

Since being elected in September 2013, the government has sealed free trade deals with China, South Korea and Japan. It also killed off controversial carbon and mining taxes and sharply reduced the number of asylum-seeker boats arriving in Australia.

The government announced savings across the board to rein in a growing budget deficit, but critics have slammed measures to cut health and education spending while tightening welfare as too harsh.

Abbott has also been criticised for changing positions on several issues and for awarding Britain's Prince Philip a knighthood last month.

One of the backbenchers who initiated the confidence vote, Luke Simpkins, said ahead of the vote that Abbott had created the situation.

"No one started this apart from, unfortunately, the prime minister himself," he told reporters.

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