Australian leader blames predecessor for popularity decline

Australia's prime minister has blamed recent criticism from his predecessor for a dip in the government's popularity in a closely watched opinion poll.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Monday that comments by Tony Abbott in a speech last week that the conservative government risked a "drift to defeat" were aimed at damaging the ruling coalition.

Turnbull's comments came after a Newspoll published in The Australian newspaper on Monday showed the center-left Labor Party opposition extending its lead over the government in public opinion.

Abbott was prime minister before Turnbull replaced him after a bitter internal challenge in the ruling party in September 2015.

Turnbull justified his challenge by pointing to the government's poor results in a series of Newspoll surveys under Abbott's leadership.