Anti-gay marriage Australian PM Tony Abbott faces leadership challenge

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott – who is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage – is facing a potential leadership challenge.

The leader of the Liberal party has been Prime Minister since 2013, but has recently faced a plunge in popularity both in opinion polls and among his own party.

Amid general dissatisfaction, Abbott will tomorrow face a leadership spill – a method by which a parliamentary party can force a new leadership challenge.

Mr Abbott remains a staunch opponent of equal marriage despite overwhelming public support for the measure, and has not bowed to calls from some of his MPs for a free vote on the issue.

Malcolm Turnbull, who has previously served as Liberal leader, is thought to be a strong contender but is yet to declare his candidacy. Others have touted Deputy Leader Julie Bishop for the role.

Abbott told ABC: “Obviously it’s a pretty chastening experience to have spill motion moved on you after just 16 months in government – a very chastening experience.

“I am determined that my government, if it continues after tomorrow, will learn from this experience, will be different and better this year than we were in every respect last year.

“I would expect that if a minister was incapable of supporting the government that the minister in question would have spoken to me, and none of them have. We will see tomorrow what my colleagues believe.”

Same-sex couples were briefly permitted to marry in the Australian Capital Territory from December 7 to December 12 2013, after the state Parliament passed a law introducing equal marriage.

However, the federal government – headed by PM Tony Abbott, who strongly opposes same-sex marriage – stepped in to challenge the decision, and the High Court put the marriage ban back into place, voiding the existing marriages.

Mr Abbott later claimed that the couples always knew that their marriages would be revoked by the state.