Controversial Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be in jeopardy of losing his tenure. Liberal ministerial positions (MP) have demanded a party vote in the wake of continued questionable actions from the world leader. The vote to challenge his leadership is scheduled for next week.
Abbott rose to power as Australia’s prime minister when he defeated former Prime Minister (PM) Kevin Rudd in the country’s general election in September 2013. Abbott succeeded in his PM bid by condemning the Labor party’s infighting and assuring voters that the country would be in better hands under his leadership. However, 18 months into his tenure, the Liberal leader’s approval rating has declined significantly and currently has sunk below 30 percent. Moreover, there are two key deputies in the nation’s administration, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, both of whom are being considered for opposition bids to Abbott.
There are a number of issues that have made Tony Abbott vulnerable in his position and could place his tenure as prime minister in jeopardy. One recent issue the embattled world leader has come under fire for included granting knighthood to England’s Prince Philip, who is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Abbott’s re-introduction of the knights and dames society is viewed as very outdated by the Australian populace, and his recent appointment of Prince Philip on January 26, which is known as Australia Day, has left the country bewildered. Up until last year, the practice of appointing knights and dames had been discontinued for nearly two decades.
Another recent event that has placed Abbott’s tenure in jeopardy is the Liberal defeat in the Queensland elections, which were held on Jan. 31, 2015. The collapse of the state’s largest-ever majority after a single term in office has been blamed in part on unpopular policies of privatization and public sector cuts, but also has been widely viewed as discontent over Abbott.
A third issue that has created tremendous opposition among Australians was the announced government revamping of the university sector. The proposed legislation had suggested removing caps on university fees, reducing university funding by 20 percent, and significantly increasing student loan rates. While the bill found some support among certain sectors in Australia, it has been abhorred by voters and even incited student protest marches after it was announced in May 2014. In December 2014, the measure was blocked in the Senate due to considerable opposition. However, a revised legislative bill is expected to be presented to parliament in February 2015.
Some of the other issues that have created opposition and turned the Australian populace against Abbott is the proposed overhaul of the country’s Medicare system, as well as the fallout from his Paid Parental Leave (PPL) bill, which is also considered his signature piece of legislation. Under the government’s proposed plan to overhaul the country’s Medicare system and shift more health care costs from the state to consumers, a co-pay would have been required when seeing a primary care doctor or general practitioner (GP). Due to the overwhelming opposition to the measure, the bill was subsequently shelved. Moreover, similar to proposed plans made to the United States Medicare system, another proposal was made in which the government would have cut subsidies paid to physicians who see Medicare patients. If successful, this measure would have left doctors with the decision whether or not to pass the cost difference on to their patients. Once again, due to the overwhelming opposition to the measures from physicians, opposition leaders, and voters, it was announced in January 2015 that the proposed changes were being shelved.
However, simultaneously it was also reiterated that changes to the public healthcare system were necessary and unavoidable. As for PPL, the measure, which was announced in 2010, extended 18 weeks of leave on minimum wage established under the Labor party and offered new mothers up to six months of leave on full pay and benefits. Moreover, fathers were also given two weeks of leave under the same measure. The measure would have been funded via taxation on high-income companies. Yet, following much controversy over the measure, the plan was recently discontinued and more efforts have been focused towards support for families, as well as increased help with childcare costs.
As Liberal MPs have called for a party vote in the wake of continued questionable actions, embattled Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be in jeopardy of losing his tenure. The vote to challenge his leadership is scheduled for next week. What the future has in store for Abbott and Australia’s political fate remains to be seen, but it will likely be decided following next week’s party vote.
By Leigh Haugh
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