Prime Minister Tony Abbott will likely face a fresh challenge to his leadership next week after a number of damaging missteps this month, a political analyst says.


New rumblings about Mr Abbott’s leadership emerged on Thursday night, with television reports that potential rival Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull now has the numbers to topple him.

The talk comes after a leadership spill motion was defeated 61-39 in a Liberal Party room meeting in Canberra earlier in February.

Griffith University political analyst Paul Williams said controversial moves by Mr Abbott since the failed spill motion made another challenge likely next week.

He cited Mr Abbott’s dumping of party elder Philip Ruddock as chief political whip and his attack on Australian Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs as key recent errors.

“I think it’s on,” Dr Williams told AAP on Friday. “He (Mr Abbott) will go sooner rather than later.

“What’s changed is the Ruddock dismissal and the Triggs attack, they’re the big ones.”

Dr Williams labelled Mr Abbott’s leadership “terminal” and expected him to lose a contest for the top job, if one were held next week.

The prime minister had been in “free fall” recently, Dr Williams said, while Mr Turnbull had played it “very smart”.

Mr Turnbull “has kept his leadership ambitions under check; I think he’s playing his cards correctly”, Dr Williams said.

He described Mr Turnbull’s recent appearance on ABC’s Q&A program as “textbook” and said all he needed now was a senior coalition figure publicly to “pat him on the shoulder” regarding the leadership.

“Then he’s the reluctant saviour of the Liberal Party,” Dr Williams added.

“The way that he’s garnered the confidence back of his peers so quickly is surprising.”

Mr Abbott said on Friday that he would not be distracted by leadership speculation, and that every member of his government was focused on doing the right thing by Australians.

Mr Turnbull has said he would not fuel continued speculation about the leadership.

“I hope you understand that,” he said outside his Sydney home.