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Australian prime minister could be ousted ... for giving knighthood to Prince Philip

Some Liberal Party MPs have said they don’t want a leadership vote as it could turn into “a horror movie”.

Abbott and Prince Philip pictured last month.
Abbott and Prince Philip pictured last month.
Image: Tim Rooke/REX

THE AUSTRALIAN PRIME Minister could be removed from office as early as next week, after being challenged from within his own party.

A backbencher from Tony Abbott’s Liberal Party is leading the revolt. Luke Simpkins has called for a leadership ballot to be held at a party meeting next Tuesday.

Unrest in the group was brought to a head when Abbott was widely criticised for making Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, Prince Philip, an Australian knight on Australia’s national day last month.

Halfway through its first three-year term, appearances of a united government have been shattered in recent weeks with public dislike for Abbott blamed in part for big swings against conservative governments at elections in Victoria and Queensland states.

Today Abbott said that he and his deputy Julie Bishop will urge the ruling party to reject calls for a leadership ballot. He said Australians voted out the chaotic and divided center-left Labour Party government in 2013 because it had changed its prime minister twice in four years in a series of leadership challenges.

‘Chaos and instability’

The challenge to Abbott’s leadership by a growing band of disgruntled lawmakers has raised the prospect of Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull becoming prime minister next week. Turnbull lost the party leadership to the more conservative Abbott by a single vote in a ballot in 2009 while the Liberals were in opposition.

“They are perfectly entitled to call for this, but the next point to make is that they are asking the party room to vote out the people that the electorate voted in in September 2013,” Abbott told reporters.

“We are not the Labor Party and we are not going to repeat the chaos and the instability of the Labor years,” he added.

Turnbull is touted as the most likely potential replacement for Abbott, but he had yet to state his position.

Simpkin said he expected Turnbull would be one of a number of leadership contenders. However the former merchant banker is not popular with the Liberals’ coalition partners, the Nationals party.

Australia Politics Abbott Source: Rick Rycroft

A number of ministers agree with Abbott that his support within the government should not be put to a vote.

“It’s totally unnecessary and it will make us look a bit of a circus, frankly,” Trade Minister Andrew Robb said.

“We saw, from the Labor Party when they were in Government, it turn out like a very bad horror movie,” Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. “I just don’t want to buy another ticket to such a horror movie.”

Colleague Sharman Stone said earlier Friday that the growing leadership crisis needed to be resolved next week when parliament sits for the first time this year.

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Associated Press

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