SYDNEY – An Australian member of parliament announced on Friday he will initiate a leadership challenge next week to unseat Prime Minister Tony Abbott after months of political unrest.
West Australian Liberal MP Luke Simpkins emailed colleagues saying he would make the move at a meeting of lawmakers set for Tuesday.
"I think we must bring this to a head and test the support of the leadership," he wrote.
Simpkins has submitted to the chief government whip a motion to vacate all of the leadership positions of the party, including the deputy role held by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, in a secret ballot.
The party room, made up of 102 Liberal members of the lower and upper house would be able to "either endorse the prime minister or seek a new direction," Simpkins said, adding it was in the best interests of the country.
Chief whip Philip Ruddock confirmed he had received notice of the motion and said Abbott had "indicated this motion will be listed for discussion at the Liberal Party Meeting on Tuesday". Simpkins said he had been inundated with emails and people coming into his office questioning the "direction the government is being led in". "The knighthood issue was for many the final proof of a disconnection with the people," he wrote, referring to a decision to award a knighthood to Britain's Prince Philip on January 26, which left Abbott facing open ridicule.
Fading poll numbers and policy backflips have also worried backbenchers in recent months.
Late on Tuesday, several MPs openly revolted against the conservative prime minister by calling for a leadership vote without saying they would bring forward a motion.
If the leadership is declared vacant, favourites to contest Abbott for the prime ministership are Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull – who led the party before Abbott ousted him in 2009 – and Bishop.
The ruling Liberal-National coalition stormed to power in a September 2013 election, but in polls this week it trailed the opposition Labor Party 46 to 54 per cent.
Abbott's rating plunged to just 34 per cent. – AFP