SYDNEY - Embattled Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he will fight a challenge to his leadership at a party-room meeting next week after disgruntled government lawmakers on Friday sought to oust him following weeks of divisive speculation.
A member of Abbott's ruling conservative Liberal Party, Western Australian MP Luke Simpkins, sent an email to colleagues to announce he will seek a vote on the party's top two positions at a scheduled party meeting in Canberra on Tuesday. Abbott has faced a torrent of criticism in recent weeks over policy decisions ranging from his handling of the economy to awarding an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth's husband, Prince Philip.
No member of the government has so far indicated a direct challenge to Abbott, although most media attention has focused on Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a former party leader toppled by Abbott. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, deputy leader of Abbott's party, has also been touted as a potential successor but Abbott said she would stand with him. "I have spoken to Deputy Leader Julie Bishop and we will stand together in urging the party room to defeat this particular motion and in so doing ... to vote in favor of the stability and the team that the people voted for at the election," Abbott said in a brief televised statement.