The Prime Minister and cabinet members have blamed Tony Abbott’s “outburst” last week for its worst polling since Malcolm Turnbull assumed power 18 months ago.
The latest Newspoll, published by The Australian newspaper, shows support for the Coalition has slumped, with the government now trailing Labor 55 to 45 in two-party preferred terms.
It is the lowest two-party preferred figure since Mr Turnbull replaced Mr Abbott as prime minister in September 2015.
The poll also had Pauline Hanson’s One Nation on 10 per cent of the primary vote, which is more than double the minor party’s support since November.
Mr Abbott’s speech condemned the Coalition performance, that it had become “Labor lite” and warned that conservative voters would flock to One Nation unless changes were made.
The poll was taken just 24 hours after Mr Abbott’s speech, prompting Mr Turnbull to accuse his predecessor of deliberately setting out to sabotage Coalition fortunes.
“What we saw was an outburst on Thursday and it had its desired impact on the Newspoll, it was exactly as predicted and calculated,” he said.
“He knew exactly what he was doing and he did it — I am not going to be distracted by that.”
Mr Turnbull also took a swipe at the media for being preoccupied with personalities at the expense of policy coverage.
“With great respect to you in the media, you are readily distracted by personality in politics,” he said.
“You are much more entertained by conflicts and personality than you are by jobs.”
Government MPs from the Prime Minister down reacted with rare frankness to the Coalition’s shocking Newspoll result.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who blasted Mr Abbott for last week’s comments, put the result down to the Coalition focusing on itself.
“It’s not a surprise after the internal conversation we’ve had through the media in recent days,” he told ABC radio.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said the government could not afford to be distracted by personalities and “all that sort of stuff”.
Abbott’s splinter group ‘the deplorables’
The Newspoll coincided with reports a group of conservative Liberal MPs, calling themselves “the deplorables”, have sought to undermine Mr Turnbull after last year’s tight election.
The MPs held regular phone hook-ups instigated by Mr Abbott and one of his strongest supporters, Senator Eric Abetz, The Australian claimed.
The Australian named other MPs involved in the group as Kevin Andrews, Michael Sukkar, Rick Wilson, Andrew Hastie, Zed Seselja, Ian Goodenough, Cory Bernardi, Nicolle Flint, Jonathon Duniam, Craig Kelly, Scott Buchholz and Tony Pasin.
The group also pushed for Mr Abbott’s return to cabinet.
Mr Hastie has since denied the claim and maintained he was right behind Mr Turnbull.
Support for One Nation and the Liberal National Party is also neck and neck in the Queensland seat of Dawson, according to new polling.
The poll, commissioned by the left-leaning Australia Institute and conducted by ReachTEL, put One Nation and the LNP on even footing at 30 per cent and 30.4 per cent of first-preference votes.
The polling followed warnings from a number of Coalition politicians that the party was drifting too far from its conservative base, most recently from former prime minister Tony Abbott.
– with AAP