Australian PM Tony Abbott in leadership crisis following Queensland election disaster

Australia's PM is being criticised within the party for gaffes and poor polling

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The Independent Online

Tony Abbott may face a leadership challenge from his own party after a series of political setbacks exacerbated his already dire approval ratings, according to reports from the Australian press.

Rumours of a plot to replace Abbott follows a particularly poor fortnight for the Prime Minister in which the Liberal-National party, allied to his coalition, suffered a humiliating defeat in the Queensland state election — losing the greatest majority in the history of the country in just one term.

The loss has been viewed as a repudiation of the party's commitment to austerity, with proposed cuts to social security, education, health and public sector deeply unpopular.

Abbott, half way through his three year term, has also been widely criticised in Australia for his decision to knight the Queen's husband Prince Phillip.

With his personal ratings at 27 per cent, as opposed to 44 for Labor leader Bill Shorten, members of Abbott's party are increasingly vocal in their hopes that he will not stand at the election next year.

Veteran politician Mal Brough said Abbott needs to answer questions about where the government is headed.

He said: "This is not about an individual. It is about the direction the country has been taking for a very long time."

And former assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos went one further, criticising on national televsion his lack of connection with the public and saying his support is "not unconditional".

Asked by Sky News if Abbott will continue as leader, the New South Wales senator said: "Comrade, come and ask me next week."

There is an emerging preference to move for Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull to replace the Prime Minister; the two have reportedly met to discuss the escalating political crisis.

A recent survey of leadership preferences had Abbott and 11 per cent, and Turnbull at 24 per cent.

But the Prime Minister is defiant in the face of internal opposition, warning in a speech on Monday of the "chaos" that he was elected to fix.

He appears certain that he'll remain leader of the country, saying: “I am very confident. I am very confident.

"I know my colleagues, I trust my colleagues, I respect my colleagues, I know my colleagues all got elected to end the chaos and they are as determined as I am to make sure that that’s exactly what we do.”