Australia's conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended his leadership amid speculation that he may be replaced in the wake of a voter backlash and a slump in his personal approval rating.

Abbott's remarks were made after a dramatic swing saw the Liberal-National Party knocked out of power in the northeastern state of Queensland on Saturday.

 I accept that we've had some difficulties. I accept that we need to learn from the difficulties that we've had, but in the end, government is not a popularity contest, it is a competence contest.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott

The loss has been partly blamed on the failures of the federal Liberal-National coalition, which has struggled to progress its policy platform since being elected in September 2013.

That pressure on Abbott intensified last week when even his biggest supporters, including Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, publicly criticised his contentious and unpopular decision to award British royal Prince Philip a knighthood.

As Murdoch's major Australian newspapers published a new poll showing Abbott's approval rating had dropped to 27 percent on Sunday, the prime minister denied that federal issues had played a part in the Queensland election loss.

"In the end, the voters of Australia are pretty smart. They judge state elections on state issues and they judge federal elections on federal issues," he said, adding that he was committed to staying on as Australia's leader and would not resign.

"I am determined to ensure that Australia does not join the weak government club of the world," he said.

"I don't say for a second that we can't do things better, but I am not going to be distracted from the essential task of giving this country the good government that it deserves.

"I accept that we've had some difficulties. I accept that we need to learn from the difficulties that we've had, but in the end, government is not a popularity contest, it is a competence contest."

'Toxic brand'

However, federal government lawmaker Warren Entsch said on Sunday that the leadership needed to be addressed, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

"I think there's some more discussions that need to be had," Entsch said. "I'll certainly be part of those discussions."

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon told the ABC that he believed the prime minister had to act fast.

"The Liberal brand is toxic mainly due to Tony Abbott," he said. "I think Tony Abbott has until the end of this week to turn things around."

Abbott will deliver a key speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday in what is now being seen as the most important address of his career.

Source: Al Jazeera And Reuters