Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered a “desperate speech from a politically drowning man” aimed at pleasing his MPs but nothing for Australian families.
These comments came as Mr Abbott admitted his party’s recent “mistakes” and vowed to move forward making a “bigger effort” for Australia.
The Liberal leader addressed the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday, announcing a backflip on policy and a response to recent controversial decisions made by the PM.
Mr Abbott said he would scrap the paid parental leave scheme, accepting it was a “captain’s call”.
He has also placed the Order of Australia Council in charge of choosing the Order awards going forward, after copping flack from all sectors for selecting Prince Philip for knighthood on Australia Day, admitting it was a “stuff-up”.
Despite the backlash felt during the past fortnight, one thing Mr Abbott was certain of was that he would remain Prime Minister, saying: ”It’s the people that hire, and frankly it’s the people that should fire.”
“I never came into politics to be popular,” he continued.
Mr Abbott confirmed that on Sunday night he spoke with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who is believed to be the frontrunner for the leadership should a vote proceed.
On Monday, Ms Bishop, who was in Sydney to discuss intelligence sharing and defence planning, was questioned by reporters whether Mr Abbott asked her not to challenge him in his leadership.
“I don’t reveal the private conversations I have with any leaders, let alone my own Prime Minster,” Ms Bishop said.
“I support the Prime Minister, I understand the speech he gave today outlined a very positive direction for us and to take to the next election.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t be in Canberra due to this meeting, but I understand it was a very positive speech.”
Backed on backflip
Fellow Queensland Labor backbencher Ewen Jones has backed his leader, despite last week slamming Mr Abbott’s decision to knight Prince Philip.
In response to Mr Abbott’s decision to cut the paid parental leave scheme, Mr Jones told The New Daily on Monday that the policy was a “hard sell” for Mr Abbott and it “had to go”.
“He had to give up something, for him that was a big effort because he truly believes in the policy,” Mr Jones said.
“That was a very personal message from Tony Abbott.”
However he refused to comment on Mr Abbott’s decision to stay on as Prime Minister.
“We’ve (the Coalition) had a rowdy couple of months, and he was part of that, but now we get to be better and we will be better,” Mr Jones said.
And how would they be better?
Mr Jones said by delivering the Coalition’s message to the people.
“People understand that they have to personally save for a holiday or a house, but expect the government to pay for everything else,” Mr Jones said.
“I think we have to get our message right – (that) we have to live within our means and work hard for it.”
Abbott in ‘dire straights’
Labor Leader Bill Shorten said Mr Abbott had still failed to concede that the “unfair” budget, including the Medicare co-payment and university deregulation, was the government’s key problem.
“We heard a desperate speech from a politically drowning man aimed at pleasing his MPs but nothing for Australian families,” Mr Shorten said.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said Mr Abbott remained in “dire straits” with his backbench.
“It’s a case of too little too late,” Mr Xenophon said.
Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy says his federal Liberal colleagues needed to “get their house in order”.
Mr Guy refused, when pressed, to say if Tony Abbott was the man to clean up that mess.
“He is the prime minister, he needs to get on with the job, and his party need to support him,” he said.
In another strategy to save a sinking ship, Mr Abbott also announced that his government had no interest in lowering or removing the minimum wage.
While penalty rates, wages and unfair dismissal laws are being reviewed by the Productivity Commission, he said that was an issue for the Fair Work Commission.
“That’s not something that this government is interested in,” Mr Abbott told the National Press Club on Monday.
Liberal backbenchers lead charge to abolish knights and dames
Queensland backbenchers Andrew Laming and Warren Entsch wanted Tony Abbott to scrap the knights and dames titles completely, in the wake of the controversial decision to give Prince Philip knighthood on Australia Day.
Mr Laming said he now had “no other option” but to introduce a private member’s bill to try and stop any future titles.
“It has attracted ridicule to the party, I don’t think it works, it undermines the awards system and I think that is absolutely unacceptable position to be in,” Mr Laming said.
“I think we have grown far beyond that as a country,” Mr Entsch added.
“Andrew Laming has my wholehearted support on this bill.”
If the bill came to a vote on the floor of the Parliament, it could further undermine Mr Abbott’s leadership.