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Australia: Anti-gay marriage PM Tony Abbott survives leadership challenge

Nick Duffy February 9, 2015

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 11: Prime Minister Tony Abbott during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on August 11, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. Tony Smith was elected Speaker on 10, August following the resignation of Bronwyn Bishop. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has narrowly survived a leadership spill that could have ended his political career.

Mr Abbott, the leader of the Liberal party, has been Prime Minister since 2013, but has recently faced a plunge in popularity both in opinion polls and among his own party.

Amid general dissatisfaction, Abbott today faced a leadership spill – a method by which a parliamentary party can force a new leadership challenge.

However, he narrowly managed to defeat the motion and cling on to his job – by a vote of 61 to 39.

After surviving the leadership challenge, Abbott said: “When you elect a government, when you elect a prime minister, you deserve to keep that government and that prime minister until you have a chance to change your mind.

“We have looked over the precipice and we have decided not to go down the Labor Party path of a damaged, divided and dysfunctional government which votes no confidence in itself.”

Mr Abbott remains a staunch opponent of equal marriage despite overwhelming public support for the measure, and has not bowed to calls from some of his MPs for a free vote on the issue.

Rodney Croome of Australian Marriage Equality said: “One way Tony Abbott can reconnect with his party and the electorate is to allow a conscience vote on marriage equality.”

“It will show he is listening to the electorate and tolerates dissent in his Party.”

“It will also show he keeps his promises, given he said before the election that he’ll allow the Liberal Party room to decide on a conscience vote.”

More: Australia, Australia, Australian, challenge, leadership, PM, Prime Minister, Tony Abbott

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