News National Liberal backbenchers challenge PM’s authority

Liberal backbenchers challenge PM’s authority

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Two Liberal backbenchers have broken ranks in an attempt to convince parliament to abolish Australian knights and dames, dealing yet another blow to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s authority.

Queensland MP Andrew Laming announced the move after Mr Abbott conceded on Monday it was a mistake to nominate the Queen’s husband Prince Philip for a knighthood.

Mr Laming’s move has been backed by fellow Queensland backbencher Warren Entsch, who told ABC radio on Tuesday that he still wasn’t sure if Mr Abbott would continue as leader of the Liberal Party.

“That’s something I can’t answer,” he said, adding that Mr Abbott’s survival would be based on how his colleagues judge him over time.

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Mr Entsch said the move to scrap the British-style honour system could be successful if Coalition MPs were allowed a free vote and said the government’s original decision to restore the honour system was a poor one.

“It wasn’t the right call for a society where we are today,” he said.

It’s the latest setback in a horror fortnight for the PM, as speculation about his political future mounts.

Some federal Liberal MPs called for a review of the current leadership following a disastrous Qld election, where record swings were recorded against the sitting Liberal National Party government.

Barnaby Joyce
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce. Photo: AAP

Deputy leader Julie Bishop and former leader Malcolm Turnbull have both been touted as contenders for the leadership.

Monday’s Fairfax Ipsos poll, which shows Labor with an election-winning lead, puts Mr Abbott’s approval rating with voters at 29 per cent – a drop of nine per cent since December.

Only 25 per cent of respondents supported the reintroduction of knights and dames to the Australian honour system.

On Tuesday, Mr Abbott’s leadership woes will be discussed at a Cabinet planning meeting in Canberra.

Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce told ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night that there were “no wallflowers in Cabinet” and the prime minister would be told how he was faring.

He admitted Mr Abbott had made mistakes, but said the Government needed to stick to its guns.

“I’ve spoken to Tony, I’ve spoken to Joe [Hockey], I’ve spoken to my colleagues … we have a strong belief that we have a purpose, we’ve got to try to turn the nation around and we’ve just got to deal with this and get through it,” he said.

“How you judge a person in these periods of time is how they deal with them.

“You get to a point where it appears the chips are against you and that is how you judge the character of those around you.

“They are either up to it and you stick as a group or it falls to pieces and goes into chaos.”

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie said Mr Abbott’s failure to listen to his colleagues and the electorate meant he should be replaced.

“I think it is time they change leadership,” she told Q&A.

“Tony Abbott has failed. He cannot stand up today and admit that he has failed. And, you know, it takes a big man to admit yep, he’s failed and until he does that, cleaning up this mess is never going to happen.”

Mr Abbott used his first formal address at the National Press Club as Prime Minister on Monday to dump his signature paid parental leave policy and remove himself from the process selecting knights and dames under the Order of Australia.

He  said the Coalition was working on a new families policy to form part of this year’s budget and announced a tax cut for small business.

“Australians deserve budget repair, no return of the carbon tax, no restart of people smuggling and no infighting,” he said.

“When things are difficult, the last thing you want to do is to make your difficulties worse.”

– with ABC, AAP