Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott vowed to defeat a challenge to his leadership at a meeting of the ruling conservative Liberal Party scheduled for next week.
Abbott told reporters he would stand with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to defeat the motion brought by disaffected lawmakers led by Western Australian MP Luke Simpkins.
Simpkins on Friday sent an email to colleagues to announce he will move the vote at a scheduled party meeting in Canberra on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Abbott has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over policy decisions ranging from his handling of the economy to awarding an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.
No member of the government has so far indicated a direct challenge to Abbott, although most media attention has focused on Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former party leader toppled by Abbott, and Bishop.
Opinion polls have consistently shown voters prefer Turnbull to lead the party, but his support for environmental steps against carbon alienated some on the party’s right.
“A change of leader will give [the government] a bounce in opinion polls and an election may be the best thing for the new leader,” said Gary Morgan, executive chairman of Roy Morgan Research.
Simpkins told Sky News he decided to call for the motion based on feedback within his electorate, and not at the behest of other senior party members.
“What people are saying to me is that there is a disconnect and that they don’t know what his plan for the future is,” Simpkins said.
“They don’t know what he wants to achieve, and sadly they’re no longer listening,” he said.
Turnbull, a former businessman, lawyer and journalist, lost the leadership to a single vote in 2009.
Bishop is well regarded in the party for her performance as foreign minister, particularly for leading Australia’s case at the United Nations following the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine last year.
Bookmakers offered short odds on Turnbull claiming the leadership, with Sportingbet.com having him at A$1.50 versus A$2.75 for Abbott and A$3.75 for Bishop.
Bishop has told the Cabinet she would not challenge Abbott but also declined to rule out standing for prime minister if the job became vacant.
Removing Abbott would need support from more than 51 of the 102 party members at the party-room vote, the report said.
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