Australian PM faces fight of his life


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By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE (AA) - Despite concerns he may be booted from office next week just 16 months after leading his party to a decisive victory in elections, Australia's Prime Minister was showing no fear Friday.

An embattled Tony Abbott told media that he and his deputy, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, will “stand together” to defeat a prospective leadership spill motion at next Tuesday’s party room meeting, when the Liberal Party will vote on whether to oust him.

West Australian Liberal MPs Luke Simpkins and Don Randall have pushed for a spill of the party's leadership positions. But at the moment the chance of that move succeeding looks unlikely.

Abbott said he and Bishop would oppose the spill motion, and a majority of the 102 Liberal MPs in the party room will need to support it if it is to go ahead.

Channeling his former boxing persona, a very confident Abbott - an Oxford University boxing Blue - is demonstrating his fighting spirit, sending an I will survive message to detractors and supporters alike.

Simpkins and Randall's public announcement of their intentions dismayed some of their colleagues.

On Friday, backbench MP Liberal MP Angus Taylor was emphatic.

"My view is the majority of MPs won't support a spill for the simple reason that history has shown again and again that a messy spill, while seductive isn't effective.

"The wise heads of the party understand that, unfortunately there are some who don't."

Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull are the two MPs most likely to take over if Abbott is deposed.

Turnbull, who Abbott defeated by one vote during a leadership spill in Dec. 2009, is expected to contest the leadership if the spill eventuates. But he has not yet declared his intentions, remaining silent on the issue since news of the spill broke.

Meanwhile, Bishop issued a statement Friday saying that due to Cabinet solidarity there should be support for the current leadership team.

Notably however, she did not endorse Abbott’s leadership or make any mention of whether she would stand with him on a joint ticket in the event the spill succeeded.

A senior source - who did not wish to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue - told News Corp Australia: “I think Julie’s been verballed.”

“Julie can either decide now if she wants to stay in the past or move into the future,” another source said.

Leadership speculation has been building since Abbott's now infamous Australia Day honor, with his decision to knight Prince Philip widely ridiculed. The Liberal Party's disastrous performance in the Queensland state election last weekend ratcheted up the pressure.

One of Abbott's key backers, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, told the ABC 7.30 program Friday that he is confident Abbott won’t be toppled.

“I'm very confident that on Tuesday the party room will support the leadership team that took us successfully to the last election. I will be supporting Tony Abbott and I will be supporting Julie Bishop and I would urge all of my colleagues to do the same,” he told host Leigh Sales.

ABC political editor Chris Uhlmann told Sales that the Liberal Party has no formal rules, which makes it difficult to predict whether the motion will succeed Tuesday.

Uhlmann forecast, however, if Abbot is not unseated he "will emerge from next week viciously wounded and his performance will be measured by the polls." 

He added that even Abbot's supporters think that his ongoing negative performance in opinion polls "will kill him before the end of the year.”

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency