Malcolm Turnbull says he regrets using 30 consecutive Newspoll losses as his rationale for dumping Tony Abbott as prime minister, but insists his party room is behind him.
The latest Newspoll published in The Australian on Monday shows the coalition trails Labor 48-52 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
The coalition has narrowed the margin by a point, but the 30th consecutive loss matches the mark Mr Turnbull used as a reason to topple Mr Abbott in September 2015.
“I regret making those remarks at the time, making the remarks about 30 Newspolls,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
But what I promised to do was to provide economic leadership and traditional cabinet government and I have done both.”
Mr Abbott, who is on the annual Pollie Pedal charity bike ride, said the 30 Newspoll test was Mr Turnbull’s alone.
“It’s really, I suppose, something for Malcolm to explain why it applied to me, but shouldn’t apply now,” he told 2GB radio.
Mr Abbott denied he was preparing to challenge to the prime minister.
“One of the differences between me and some of my colleagues is that if I’ve got something to say, I don’t ring up a journalist and whisper poison into their ears – I say it up front, openly, and put my name on it,” he said.
The prime minister said he would lead the Liberals to the next election, due by May 2019.
“I do have the confidence of my colleagues and no-one, by the way, is suggesting I don’t,” Mr Turnbull said.
Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop said Mr Turnbull would remain party leader.
“The public are expressing an opinion, but it will come to a point where they will have to make a decision about who they trust with economic management and national security and I’m confident that that will be Malcolm Turnbull,” she told the Nine Network.
Asked whether she would run against Mr Turnbull if her colleagues asked her, Ms Bishop said, “I don’t envisage those circumstances at all”.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the prime minister had the support of the party room.
“It’s not unusual for incumbent governments in between elections being behind in the polls, I mean we’re not actually that far behind, truth be told,” he told ABC radio.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said if polls were to be believed, Nick Xenophon would be South Australian premier.
Newspoll also found Mr Turnbull remains preferred prime minister at 38 per cent, compared to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s 36 per cent.
An Ipsos/Fairfax poll published on Saturday also showed the coalition at 48-52, based on how preferences flowed at the last election.
Mr Shorten said he doesn’t define his success by Newspoll wins.
“It’s Mr Turnbull who said 30 Newspolls is a definition of success. That’s his problem,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Perth.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is shrugging off his 30th straight Newspoll loss – one of the markers he cited when he rolled Tony Abbott for the country’s top job.
According to the latest Newspoll published in Monday’s The Australian, the coalition trails Labor 48-52 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
Trotting out Howard-era poll results, Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said John Howard managed a seven point turnaround from a 48-52 poll result after calling the 2004 election.
“I’m actually surprised that the polls are as good as they are,” he said.
“The government isn’t in massive trouble. The polls are about 50/50 – that’s not a bad position to be in.”
Mr Birmingham said it is possible to turn the polls around, citing the recent South Australian election.
“If you believed the polls, Nick Xenophon was going to be premier a few months ago,” he told ABC TV.
“You can turn these things around through discipline, through hard work, through focusing on the key messages.”