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Abbott: I’m staying as leader

Australia Day Tony Abbott
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott has vowed to lead the government to the next election, saying the success of his best ministers owes much to the team’s “captain”.

Mr Abbott was responding to reports senior government MPs have given him until the second half of 2015 to improve his performance or risk losing his job.

Coalition MPs have publicly and privately criticised Mr Abbott in recent weeks, with his decision to award a knighthood to Prince Philip seen by some as the last straw in a series of poor decisions made without consultation.

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Asked whether he would lead the coalition to the 2016 election, Mr Abbott told reporters: “Absolutely.”

Quizzed further about the higher popularity ratings of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister said he was thrilled to have such strong colleagues.

“One of the reasons why so many members of the team are able to perform so well is because they have got a very good captain,” said Mr Abbott, who was visiting a dairy farm in the regional Victorian city of Colac on Friday.

“It takes a good captain to help all the players of a team to excel.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey, who visited a construction site in western Sydney, said MPs were entitled to their views on the government’s fortunes.

“But I would just say to people, we do not want to become a carbon copy of a bad Labor government, the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government,” he said.

“We need to focus on doing the job at hand, which is making Australians richer and creating more jobs.”

The treasurer said he was working with Social Services Minister Scott Morrison and the prime minister on a new families package, which will incorporate paid parental leave.

Mr Abbott will talk about families and the economy in a speech to the National Press Club on Monday.

Mr Hockey declined to say whether a Liberal-National Party loss in Saturday’s Queensland state election would have ramifications for Mr Abbott, who has been quarantined from the campaign.

“I say to the people of Queensland: don’t abandon good government tomorrow,” he said.

Mr Abbott said Mr Newman “deserves to win” the election.

Mr Turnbull, the former Liberal leader, laid out some of his thoughts on foreign policy – an issue outside his portfolio – in an off-the-record speech in Los Angeles to the World Affairs Council.

A Seven News ReachTEL poll found he was the top choice to lead the coalition, with more than 44.6 per cent of respondents backing him.

Mr Turnbull declined to talk to AAP outside the function.

West Australian Labor leader Mark McGowan suggested Mr Abbott take a leaf out of the book of Seinfeld character George Costanza.

“Remember George Costanza? He woke up in the morning and decided whatever his instinct was, he’d do the opposite, and things started going really well,” Mr McGowan told 96fm’s breakfast program.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie, a strong critic of Mr Abbott, described Mr Turnbull as a “gentleman” who had expressed interest in her bid to help war veterans.


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