Australia

Australian PM Abbott 'has not considered resigning'

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Media captionTony Abbott has suffered a series of embarrassing gaffes recently

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he has not considered resigning, despite a slump in popularity and growing questions about his leadership.

In a major policy speech, he confirmed the scrapping of a paid parental leave scheme, one of his signature policies.

Mr Abbott admitted he had suffered a couple of months of "hard times".

He has faced criticism for awarding a knighthood to Queen Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip and suffered a shock defeat in state elections.

But he told journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra he believed he was still the best person to lead the country and had not considered quitting.

Referring to the previous Labor government, which struggled with infighting, Mr Abbott said his party was elected in 2013 because "the Australian people rejected chaos".

"And we are not going to take them back to that chaos... Let's also remember what I have said time and time again at the time... Once you go to an election it is the people who 'hire and fire'," he said.

'Times are tough'

He also said he had the full support of his deputy, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"Julie's a friend of mine, Julie's my deputy... I believe I have her full support and I certainly look forward to continuing to have that."

Ms Bishop and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull have been suggested as possible contenders for his job, although both have publicly backed Mr Abbott.

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Image caption Mr Abbott face questions from reporters at the National Press Club
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Image caption Julie Bishop, seen as a possible rival to Mr Abbott, spent the day with British officials

On the paid parental leave scheme, Mr Abbott said it was "off the table" as the country currently could not afford the scheme.

"I admire stay-at-home mums - as [his wife] Margie was when our children were young - but still firmly believe in the need for a better paid parental leave scheme to maximise my daughters' choices to have a career and to have a family too," he said.

"Still, I accept that what's desirable is not always doable especially when times are tough and budgets are tight."

The government's initial policy said mothers would be provided with half a year's paid parental leave at their actual wage or at the national minimum wage, whichever was greater, but with a cap at A$150,000 ($116,500; £77,254).

Women would also be paid pension funds and the whole scheme was to be funded by a 1.5% levy on companies with taxable incomes in excess of A$5m ($3.8m; £2.6m).

But members of Mr Abbott's own party said it was too expensive and it received only a lukewarm response from women's groups because it did not address rising child care costs.

Asked if he would accept a knighthood, he said no, adding: "I think it is highly unlikely I would be offered any particular gong at this time."

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