Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott faces challenge to leadership

Ruddock later confirmed that the ballots would go ahead if the motion is passed at Tuesday's meeting.

By: Associated Press | Canberra | Updated: February 6, 2015 10:16 am
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The fight over conservative Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s leadership broke out into the open on Friday, with a member of his party triggering a potential challenge next week.

Lawmaker Luke Simpkins said in an email to colleagues that he will move a motion at a ruling Liberal Party meeting on Tuesday calling for Abbott to declare that his job and that of his deputy Julie Bishop are open to a ballot of 102 government lawmakers.

It is not yet clear whether any lawmaker will be nominated to run against Abbott or his foreign minister.

The party’s chief whip Philip Ruddock later confirmed that the ballots would go ahead if the motion is passed at Tuesday’s meeting.

Halfway through his first three-year term as prime minister, Abbott had been under increasing pressure over poor showings in opinion polls.

Public dislike of Abbott is blamed in part for conservative governments suffering big election losses in Victoria state in November and Queensland state in January.

He has also been widely criticized for making Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, an Australian knight on Australia’s national day last month.

Simpkins said in an email to party colleagues the knighthood for Prince Philip was “the final proof of a disconnection with the people.”

“I think we must bring this to a head and test the support of the leadership in the party room,” he wrote.

Bishop and Communication’s Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been touted as potential replacements for Abbott.

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