Australia's new prime minister gets opinion poll boost but fallout from party fight lingers

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia's new prime minister received a boost from a respected opinion poll on Tuesday, but the fallout lingers from a bitter party battle as the leader he ousted has attacked the credibility of his new treasurer.

A Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found that Malcolm Turnbull is Australia's most popular prime minister in more than five years — a period that covered the terms of Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.

The poll found 55 percent of respondents preferred him as prime minister — 18 points more than Abbott received when the last poll was taken two weeks ago.

Turnbull also opened a 34-point lead over opposition leader Bill Shorten, who had led Abbott in most Newspolls this year.

Newspoll also puts Turnbull's coalition government ahead of the center-left Labor Party's opposition for the first time since April last year. However, the government's 51 percent to 49 percent lead over the opposition is less than the survey's 3 percentage point margin of error.

In Abbott's last news conference as prime minister after he was ousted in a surprise leadership ballot of lawmakers in the ruling Liberal Party, he promised to make the transition to the new administration "as easy as I can."

"There will be no wrecking, no undermining and no sniping," Abbott said.

But in his first media interview since then, Abbott contradicted the new Treasurer Scott Morrison's version of events leading up to the leadership challenge.

Morrison has said he played no role in the challenge that resulted in his own promotion from social services minister to the senior economics portfolio, which is regarded as the most prestigious after the prime minister.

Morrison also said he warned Abbott's office days before Turnbull's challenge that "things were pretty febrile and they should be on high alert."

But Abbott told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday that there was no such warning.

"Not true, not true. Scott never warned anyone," Abbott told the newspaper after a morning surf in Sydney on Monday. "I'm afraid Scott badly misled people."

Abbott's version of events will likely heighten the anger of his allies within the government ranks who accuse Turnbull and his supporters of treachery.

The Newspoll was based on a telephone survey of 1,645 voters nationwide from Thursday until Sunday last week. The poll was taken after Turnbull was sworn in as prime minister but before his Cabinet was sworn in on Monday. His Cabinet is younger, more moderate and contains more women than the previous Cabinet chosen by the more conservative Abbott.

The poll mirrored two opinion polls last week that found Turnbull was more popular that Shorten.

Shorten says the poll bounce is just a short-term reaction to the removal of an unpopular prime minister.

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