Australian PM urged to call early election to mitigate likely defeat

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-03 10:47:01|Editor: Chengcheng
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CANBERRA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has been urged to call an early election to mitigate his party's losses by his predecessor.

Former PM Malcolm Turnbull, who was deposed by the governing Liberal Party in August, on Monday launched his most significant intervention into party affairs since his downfall.

"My view is that it would be manifestly in the best interests and prospects of the Morrison government to go to the polls as soon as it can after the summer break," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio.

"In fact my intention, and Scott's intention, prior to my removal, was to go to the polls on March 2."

Morrison announced in November that the federal budget would be delivered on April 2 and that a general election would follow soon afterwards.

However, Turnbull said that holding the federal election earlier could save the Liberal Party from losing the state election in New South Wales (NSW).

Opinion polls have revealed that the incumbent Liberal Party is headed towards defeat to the Australian Labor Party (ALP) in the NSW state election, which will take place on March 23, with voters citing the federal leadership crisis as a key reason for abandoning the party at the state level.

"There's a lot of concern in NSW Liberal circles that a very good, outstanding government led by (NSW Premier) Gladys Berejiklian is going to have its prospects of success diminished because of the brand damage to the Liberal Party caused by the leadership change in August," Turnbull said.

His warning came only one week after the ALP won a second term in a landslide election defeat of the Liberal Party in Victoria.

Morrison's Liberal-National Party Coalition (LNP), the governing coalition consisting of the Liberal Party and National Party, is trailing the ALP 45-55 on a two-party preferred basis and could win as few as 56 of 150 seats in the lower house of the Australian parliament at the general election.

Comparatively, the LNP trailed the ALP 49-51 on a two-party preferred basis when Turnbull was deposed and Morrison installed as leader, a decision the party said would give it a better chance of winning a third term in government.

Turnbull, who quit politics in August, on Monday said he would continue to be outspoken on party matters and refused to take the blame for his successor's "electoral woes."

"I am an Australian citizen, I'm a member of the Liberal Party, I am entitled to express my views," he said.

"If you get to the point where you're saying to me that I should never discuss political matters with anybody because they could be leaked to the media, that's a ridiculous proposition."

Responding to Turnbull's comments, Energy Minister Angus Taylor said he was unaware of the plan for a March federal election.

"Australians want governments to serve their term," he told Sky News Australia.

"What they want most of all is for us to unite and fight against a potential Labor government."

Morrison was set to return from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires on Monday afternoon.