April 8, 2018 / 11:32 PM / 11 days ago

Australian PM loses 30th straight poll, faces leadership pressure

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition government on Monday lost a 30th straight major opinion poll, a symbolic defeat that intensifies pressure on him after he used the same milestone to oust his predecessor.

FILE PHOTO - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks to the media during a news conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, March 27, 2018. AAP/Lukas Coch/via REUTERS

The latest widely watched Newspoll, published in The Australian newspaper, showed the Liberal-National coalition trailing the opposition Labor Party 52-48 on a two-party preferred basis, a margin that would deliver Turnbull an election defeat.

Although Australia is a year away from a general election, the Newspoll leaves Turnbull facing questions about his future.

Three Australian prime ministers have been ousted by their own parties since 2010, dumped by colleagues after their popularity began to wane.

Once widely popular, Turnbull has fallen out of favor after a wave of scandals, including the resignation of his former deputy after revelations he was expecting a child with his former press secretary, and an eligibility crisis that saw the government temporarily lose its parliamentary majority.

A surge by right-wing minor parties and factions of his own party has forced Turnbull to embrace conservative policies, damaging his reputation as a liberal.

There was some good news for the embattled leader with a Fairfax/Ipsos poll published by The Australian Financial Review over the weekend showing that many Australians have grown weary of a revolving-door leadership.

Some 62 percent of those surveyed said they wanted Turnbull to remain prime minister.

Senior government lawmakers have also backed Turnbull.

“Malcolm Turnbull retains the confidence of the vast majority of our party room,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, deputy leader of the Liberal Party, told Sky News.

Even former prime minister and party leader Tony Abbott, ousted by Turnbull in September 2017, and who has led much of the criticism of him, set a conciliatory tone.

“The point I’d make is that we shouldn’t obsess over polls. I never did. I don’t think that others should,” Abbott told reporters in Victoria state.

However, Abbott took the opportunity to sharpen his criticism of the government’s refusal to build a coal-fired power station.

Australia’s electricity supply business has becomes a hot political issue following a string of blackouts and price spikes.

“We should be the party of low power prices and that means more coal-fired power generation,” Abbott said.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Jane Wardell and Robert Birsel

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