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Bounce for Australian PM as voters tire of leadership roundabout

Bounce for Australian PM as voters tire of leadership roundabout
December 4, 2017

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Embattled Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull received an unexpected boost from an opinion poll on Monday that showed voters want their leaders to govern for their full terms rather than the revolving door that has marked Australian politics.

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

Turnbull has flirted with becoming the latest victim of this syndrome, his popularity flagging ever since he became leader in a party-room coup in September 2015.

However, Monday’s Fairfax/Ipsos showed that voters had wearied of the national leadership switches, with 71 percent of 1,400 people surveyed saying they disapproved of changing leaders between elections.

It came as some relief for Turnbull, whose centre coalition government is clinging precariously to power since a citizenship crisis forced his deputy, along with eight other lawmakers, out of parliament because they were dual citizens.

The citizenship crisis left Turnbull presiding over a minority government.

“If there’s anyone silly enough to think that they could overthrow Turnbull, I would think this gives them pause for thought,” said Rod Tiffen, emeritus professor in government and international relations at Sydney University.

“But the state of the polls generally is not good news for him,” he told Reuters.

The government clawed back one key seat on Saturday when Barnaby Joyce, Turnbull’s deputy who was forced by the citizenship crisis to recontest his seat, resoundingly won a by-election to regain his place in parliament.

However, another crucial by-election looms on Dec. 19 and the crisis continues to distract from Turnbull’s attempts at turning the domestic agenda to voter-friendly issues such as tax reform and housing affordability.

The Liberal-National coalition lost a 24th straight fortnightly Newspoll, also published on Monday, since Turnbull ousted his predecessor Tony Abbott. Turnbull seized the leadership after Abbott lost 30 consecutive Newspolls and now finds himself under enormous pressure.

A poor showing at a state election in Queensland last month, as well as his handling of a vote to legalise same-sex marriage, prompted disgruntled coalition lawmakers to demand that Turnbull quit last week.

He has so far stared down the threat and declared he will lead the coalition to the next election, which is due in 2019. Turnbull has also ordered all politicians to disclose the birthplace of their parents and grandparents on Dec. 5 in a bid to end the citizenship crisis.