Malcolm Turnbull praised the plan to hold a leadership spill vote on Tuesday, then Tony Abbott moved it to Monday

PM Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Stefan Postles/Getty

This morning Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that the Liberal leadership spill would be brought forward to Monday, in order “to end the uncertainty at the very beginning of the parliamentary sitting week.”

Shortly before that announcement, Malcolm Turnbull, the minister who many expect could challenge the Prime Minister if the leadership is declared vacant on the spill vote, was praising the PM for respecting his party room by calling the motion to be heard on Tuesday.

Some backbenchers are believed to be angered by Abbott’s decision, having hoped they would have more time to discuss the proceedings with their senior members prior the secret ballot.

Turnbull said this morning:

“I believe that we as a party, one of the great strengths in the party is… we’ve got to respect our members in the party room. Whether they’re the Prime Minister or the newest elected backbencher.

“Let me give you an example and I want to pay a compliment to the Prime Minister about this. There was speculation in the press… that the Prime Minister would demand there would be a show of hands. Now I know that wasn’t right because Tony Abbott respects the right of the party room to make its own decisions without any pressure, without people feeling that if they go one way or other they’d be subject to some sort of recrimination or vindictiveness, or something like that.

“Tony has really done the right thing.

“I think, [he’s] shown great respect for the party room by saying that the meeting should be on Tuesday, which is the normal party room meeting. Now that’s very significant because again you’ve had people in the press saying it’s going to be brought forward to Monday in a rush. The virtue of having it Tuesday, and I know Tony Abbott very well you know he’s a good friend of mine. And this is why he has said in Townsville it will be on Tuesday because he knows that members coming to Canberra, who will have been getting lots of phone calls and talking to constituents and many of which will be uncertain, will want to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to each other in the nation’s capital, in the course of that Monday leading up to the Tuesday.”

Turnbull then reiterated his show of support for Abbott saying: “I’m in the cabinet, of course I support the Prime Minister. Everyone supports the Prime Minister.”

Following Turnbull’s comments Abbott rescheduled the spill motion to be heard at a special Party Room meeting for 9.00am on Monday. Read more on that here.

Turnbull later said he was not disappointed with the decision, but described it as a “Captain’s call”.

Abbott has used the phrase to describe some of his more unpopular decisions, including that have precipitated the current leadership crisis.