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Australian PM feels 'at height of powers'

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 10:46
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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he felt at the "height of his powers" on Tuesday as a new poll showed him gaining on the opposition, despite reports conservative colleagues may still move to dump him.

[SYDNEY] Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he felt at the "height of his powers" on Tuesday as a new poll showed him gaining on the opposition, despite reports conservative colleagues may still move to dump him.

Mr Abbott survived a leadership challenge earlier this month from within his Liberal Party after poor polling and policy backflips left many questioning his judgement.

But after a Newspoll published in The Australian showed his government at a four-month high and closing the gap on the opposition Labor Party, Abbott said he felt energised.

"You know what it is like to be young and vigorous and at the height of your powers, and that's exactly how I feel," he told the Nine Network.

The poll of 1,212 respondents showed the government gained four points if pitted directly against Labor, but still trails it 47 to 53 per cent in a two-party comparison.

It also found that 77 per cent considered Abbott arrogant, and only 25 per cent were satisfied with his performance.

Mr Abbott survived the vote of confidence among Liberal parliamentarians this month 61 to 39.

Despite the two-party improvement, a report on Tuesday said that seven ministers among the 61 who backed Abbott in the vote were unsettled and some of them would not support him in any further leadership challenge.

The Sydney Morning Herald report suggested Mr Abbott would be given until June to turn the tide before any further move on his position.

"There is a sense in which prime ministers are always on probation," Mr Abbott admitted on Tuesday, but stressed that he was getting on with the job at hand.

A key concern behind the leadership challenge, relating to the perceived power of Mr Abbott's chief-of staff Peta Credlin, who is married to the Liberal Party's federal director Brian Loughnane, also arose against Tuesday.

In letters leaked to the media, the Liberal Party's honorary treasurer Philip Higginson warned that the corporate world would never allow two such crucial positions to be occupied by a married couple.

Mr Higginson said the situation meant he was "overwhelmed daily by the sheer vitriol, and pent-up animosities, and enmities that exist".

"How this party ever let a husband-and-wife team into those two key roles, where collegiate competitive tension is mandatory and private consultations between colleagues to see that each side is served well, is a complete mystery," he said.

Mr Abbott dismissed the comments as "internals".

"I stand by my team, I stand by my cabinet colleagues, my parliamentary colleagues, I stand by my staff," Mr Abbott said.

AFP