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Tony Abbott says 'good Government starts today' after narrowly surviving a motion to spill the leadership

Tony Abbott has survived a motion to spill the leadership of the Liberal party. However, the vote of 61 against the motion to 39 in favour reveals a divided partyroom which has the potential to cause ongoing leadership questions for the prime minister. More below.

Abbott with members of his front bench today. Photo: Getty

3:30pm: Question Time has concluded.

2:50pm: In the first question to the PM in the House of Representatives this year, Opposition leader Bill Shorten asked Tony Abbott the very same question he posed to former PM Julia Gillard when she faced a leadership challenge three years ago.

2:30pm: During Question Time, Opposition leader Bill Shorten asked Tony Abbott whether he’ll abandon any budget measures, “or is he just planning to abandon his Treasurer as he did at the press conference today?”

The PM responded by saying, “I stand by my Treasurer. I stand by my team. I stand by my Treasurer and I stand by my team.”

2:00pm: Tony Abbott failed to answer in the positive when asked point-blank if he still had confidence in his Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

“…All of us are determined to lift our game and the fundamental point I make is that the solution to all of these things is good Government, and good Government starts today,” Abbott said.

More on that here.

1:37pm: Abbott is addressing the media in Canberra, after surviving the leadership spill motion.

On changes to Medicare: “Obviously we have some proposals which are out there already. There will be no new proposals coming forward without the broad backing of the medical profession.”

On securing Budget support in the Senate: “It was a bold and ambitious budget last year, with the wisdom of hindsight, perhaps too bold and too ambitious.”

“We will not buy fights with the senate that we can’t win unless we determine that they are fights we must win.”

On his leadership and government’s action going forward: “I am determined to do better in these tests in the next few months than I have in the last few months.”

“We are a government that has good answers for the people of Australia.

“The party room believes no less than I do… in the broad direction. We need to take a more consultative and colleagial approach.”

On his new approach to dealing with MPs: “My door is open. I am available to people.”

“I accept that prime ministers don’t always get their way.

“This is going to be a government that socialises decisions before they are finalised… I will be talking to backbench committee chairs.

“I want to harness all of the creativity and insights that this party has to offer.

“All of us have had to have a good long hard look at ourselves.”

Abbott repeated his message that the entire spill experience has been “very chastening” and re-iterated his pledge to be “different and better”.

1:10pm: The PM will make a formal address at 1:30pm. Business Insider will have live coverage.

12:15am: News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch just tweeted about Abbott’s political survival.

Murdoch has been outspoken about Australian politics lately, last month calling for the PM’s chief-of-staff Peta Credlin to step down. More on that here.

11:40am: Always the optimist. Senate leader Eric Abetz said the 61-39 vote was “a strong result for the Prime Minister”.

“Five years ago Tony Abbott won the leadership by one vote; five years later that margin has increased by a long way,” he told Sky News.

11:20am: Phil Coorey at the AFR is reporting that, during his address to the party room, Abbott signalled he can win at the next election but he needs the support his party to do so.

Abbott told MPs he “can fight the Labor Party but I’m not very good at fighting the Liberal Party,” he said.

“I can beat [Labor leader] Shorten.”

11:10am: Abbott reportedly likened the result of the leadership spill motion to a “near death experience”, a variety of sources told Fairfax Media, with the PM promising to consult more widely with government MPs in the future.

10:45am: MP Luke Simpkins said nonconformist backbenchers should now give Abbott “the opportunity to implement the changes” he has promised.

“I think that 39 votes for a spill motion is a powerful message. It was clear from what the Prime Minister said afterwards that he has listened to that and he is going to change,” he said.

“I think the backbench is going give the Prime Minister a lot of latitude, particularly when he spoke so positively about the changes that need to take place.”

10:40am: Opposition leader Bill Shorten released a statement saying the potential leadership spill has been an unstable showing for the government, declaring the Liberal Party to be “in paralysis”.

“Tony Abbott promised he would run a stable and united government,” Shorten said.

“This is his biggest broken promise yet.”

10:35am: Abbott addressed the party room following the vote and Western Australia MP Luke Simpkins, the backbencher who called for the spill late last week, said there was a good chance of reform to the government’s controversial GP payment.

“Greater consultation with the medical profession, so I imagine we’ll see changes later on,” he said.

10:15am: Abbott, in a statement from his office following the vote, said he wants to “end the disunity”.

“We think that when you elect a government, when you elect a Prime Minister you should get to keep that government, that Prime Minister until you change your mind,” Abbott said.

“We face many challenges at heart, we are a highly successful country… The challenge for government is to work with you not against you.”

Abbott said the “focus now is once more on jobs, families, a strong economy and safer nation.”

Here’s the full statement:

The Liberal Party has dealt with the spill motion and now this matter is behind us.

We are absolutely determined to work for you the people who elected us. We want to end the disunity and the uncertainty which destroyed two Labor governments and give you the good government that you deserve.

We think that when you elect a government, when you elect a Prime Minister, you deserve to keep that government and that Prime Minister until you have a chance to change your mind. So the focus now is once more on jobs, families, a stronger economy and a secure nation.

We do face many challenges. At heart, we are a highly successful country, justifiably proud of what we’ve achieved. In essence, we are a strong economy with so much creativity and dynamism the challenge for government is to work with you, not against you.

I love this country. I will do my best to help our country to succeed.

9.34am: Abbott addressed the partyroom after the vote. Peter Reith just said on Sky News that Abbott probably lost another handful of votes from his front bench based on the 39 votes against the PM on the spill motion.

So once things settle down Abbott will come to the realisation that his support in the partyroom is now dangerously precarious.

The other issue to consider here is some backbenchers, even if unhappy with Abbott, loathe Malcolm Turnbull even more. They might have been convinced to vote against the spill motion to stop Turnbull getting a chance to run for leader.

9.16am: The spill motion has been defeated 61-39.

The key number here is 39. Abbott survives, but he is leading a clearly divided partyroom with four out of 10 members of the partyroom voting to blow Abbott out of his position and force a leadership ballot.

Remember, 40 or 41 votes from the cabinet and whips were guaranteed to the PM – if all his executive voted with him. (It’s possible that in the secret ballot, some didn’t.)

But the apparent result is that around two-thirds of the free vote was against the party leader.

There was one informal vote.

9.12am: The vote is done, Sky News reports. Counting underway. Should take a few minutes.

9.09am: REMINDER:

More on the confidence problem here and here.

9.03am: The meeting’s underway. Abbott will be taking the chair.

8.59am: Tony Abbott walks into the partyroom with Julie Bishop by his side and a throng of perhaps two dozen ministers in a huge show of strength. Malcolm Turnbull had previously walked into the room on his own, mobile in hand.

BuzzFeed’s Mark Di Stefano tweeted this comparison:

8.53am: MPs are filing into the partyroom. Scott Morrison walked into the meeting with known spill motion supporter Arthur Sinodinos.

What’s happening:

PM Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty
  • Liberal MPs and Senators gather in Canberra this morning to vote on the motion to spill the party leadership. There’s 101 MPs in the partyroom (one can’t make it for personal reasons) so 51 votes are required to force a leadership ballot.
  • A Newspoll in today’s Australian showed support for the coalition at six-year lows. The poll gives the plotters against the PM some momentum going into the meeting.
  • If the spill motion is successful, Malcolm Turnbull is expected to stand for the leadership. Sky News reported this morning that there is an agreement that Julie Bishop would not stand, avoiding any potential split in the vote.
  • We know Andrew Laming, Teresa Gambaro, Arthur Sinodinos, Dennis Jensen, Luke Simpkins, Wyatt Roy and Don Randall have publicly declared they’ll be voting to spill the leadership. Here’s a closer look at how this morning’s meeting runs and what different results in the vote might mean. In short, a vote above 30 is hugely destabilising for Abbott.
  • The story is far from over if the spill motion doesn’t get up. As Greg McKenna writes this morning, whoever is in office needs to rebuild economic confidence. And given Malcolm Turnbull has signalled he’s willing challenge the PM in the event of a spill, there’s the question of what Abbott does with his partyroom enemies. How will he keep them at bay?
  • We’ll have live updates here as it all unfolds. Refresh this page for the latest.

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