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Abbott under fire after 'catastrophic' poll

By Reuters in Perth | China Daily | Updated: 2015-02-02 07:49

Australia's conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott came under renewed leadership pressure on Sunday, a little more than a year into office, following voter backlash in a state poll and a slump in his personal approval rating.

Abbott said he was determined to stay on as leader, adding government was "not a popularity contest", but conceded Saturday's rout of the Liberal-National Party in the Queensland election had delivered a jolt.

"The people of Australia elected me as prime minister and they elected my government to get on with the job of governing our country," he said.

"I accept that we've had some difficulties," Abbott said. "I accept that we need to learn from the difficulties that we've had, but in the end, government is not a popularity contest, it is a competence contest."

In an embarrassing result for the Queensland LNP, closely aligned to Abbott's Liberal-National coalition, the party surrendered the largest political majority in Australia's history after just one term in office.

Members of the government called the result "catastrophic", sparking speculation of a possible party revolt against Abbott's leadership.

Local media reported that Abbott has called a two-day meeting of his Cabinet from Tuesday to thrash out a policy agenda for 2015 and confront the political issues dogging his government.

Fairfax media reported backbenchers and ministers have been expressing growing doubts over Abbott's leadership, however the majority of the dissatisfaction has been kept behind closed doors.

Attorney-General George Brandis told Sky News the Cabinet "was determinedly, unitedly and strongly behind the prime minister".

Abbott has been criticized for broken electoral promises and a series of policy backflips.

That pressure intensified last week when even his biggest supporters, including Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, publicly criticized his contentious and unpopular decision to award Britain's Prince Philip a knighthood.

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