SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday he would take criticism of his decision to grant Britain’s Prince Philip a knighthood “on the chin”, promising greater consultation as speculation about his future as leader mounted.
Abbott, an avowed monarchist who was born in England, bestowed Australia’s highest honour on Queen Elizabeth’s husband earlier this week, provoking widespread criticism, including some from within his party.
“In the end this is my call and I‘m happy to take these things on the chin,” Abbott told reporters in Melbourne. “Obviously there are some lessons in these things and the lesson that I learn is that there does need to be wider consultation about these sorts of awards in the future.”
Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, a staunch supporter of Abbott and his conservative Liberal-National government, waded into the furore, saying the prime minister’s powerful chief of staff should quit.
“Abbott again. Tough to write, but if he won’t replace top aide Peta Credlin she must do her patriotic duty and resign,” Murdoch said on his Twitter feed. “Forget fairness. This change only way to recover team work and achieve so much possible for Australia. Leading involves cruel choices.”
Credlin has been a lightening rod for much of the criticism of the Abbott leadership after a series of perceived missteps and a souring economy that have seen his popularity plummet in recent months.
“Based on chats with Libs this AM, for the 1st time (& I can’t believe I‘m saying this) I now don’t think PM can make it to the next election,” Peter van Onselen, political commentator and contributing editor at Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper said on Twitter.
Abbott’s surprise reintroduction of knights and dames in the former British colony’s honours system last year drew criticism that he was out of touch with national sentiment. At the time he said they were intended to recognise “pre-eminent Australians”.
Reporting by Lincoln Feast; Editing by Stephen Coates