Prime Minister Tony Abbott has shrugged off suggestions he will vacate the leadership, vowing not to take Australians back to the chaos of the Rudd-Gillard years.
Speaking at the National Press Club, Mr Abbott admitted he needed to “make a bigger effort with the Australian people” but said he was “never elected to be popular”.
“We have to make a bigger effort with everyone included in decision-making,” Mr Abbott conceded.
“I never came into politics to be popular, I came into politics to make a difference … to do the right thing for the people of Australia.”
Mr Abbott shrugged off suggestions he would face a leadership challenge, saying he had the confidence of his colleagues and trusted them to “do the best thing”.
He also promised to avoid the kind of “chaos” seen in the Rudd-Gillard years.
“That’s why we were elected, because the Australian people rejected chaos and we are not taking them back to that chaos,” he vowed.
A Fairfax Ipsos poll released on Monday shows Mr Abbott has one of the worst approval ratings of a political leader in recent history.
On leadership speculation
In regards to widespread criticism of his government, Mr Abbott argued his time as Prime Minister had been “a journey”.
“The country’s been on a journey, every one of us here are on a journey and at every stage we do the best we can,” he said.
“I am confident that all of us in this room are growing into the various roles we’ve got.”
Mr Abbott emphasised his faith in his party, acknowledging the past few months had been difficult ones for Liberal leadership.
“We’ve had a rough couple of months. When things are difficult, the last thing you want to do is make your difficulties worse. That’s the last thing you want to do.
“I like my colleagues, I respect my colleagues and I expect my colleagues above all else to want to do the best thing.”
In particular, Mr Abbott singled out Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop as a “terrific deputy”.
“Julie is a friend of mine. Julie is my deputy. She’s been a terrific deputy and a terrific minister, I believe I have her full support and I certainly look forward to continuing that.”
Mr Abbott brushed off crucial losses in both Victoria and Queensland, acknowledging that “difficult reform” played a part in the Queensland defeat.
“There are lessons in Queensland for all of us,” he said.
“If you want to put in place difficult but necessary reform, you got to explain it, you’ve got to justify it, you’ve got to bring the people with you. I accept we’ve done some of that ourselves over the past 12 months. I know we’ve struggled in the senate.
Of the Victorian election, the Prime Minister described the election of a Labor government as the result of a “fit of absentmindedness”.
On policy changes
Of his past controversial policy decisions, Mr Abbott acknowledged his shortcomings and said he was open to change and the opinions of the public.
“I have listened, I have learned, I have acted,” he said, referring to “captain’s picks” like his paid parental leave scheme and the knighthood of Prince Phillip.
“Those particular captain’s picks which people have found difficult have been removed.”
“I accept I overdid it.”
Mr Abbott announced he would strip himself of the job of appointing knights and dames following criticism of his decision to confer the honour to Prince Philip.
Calling the decision a “stuff-up”, he transferred the responsibility of appointing future awards to the Order of Australia council.
Speaking specifically of his decision to scrap his signature paid parental leave scheme, Mr Abbott said he “accepts that this is not the right time for that policy”.
“It’s not going to happen,” he said.
“The bigger paid parental leave scheme is off the table. Values and beliefs are important but the most important consideration of all is what will help families at this time.”