In a short, brief message this morning Tony Abbott has called for the leadership spill to be brought forward to Monday morning.
His reasoning: to put an end to the uncertainty.
Here’s the message in full.
This morning, I have asked the Chief Government Whip to call a special Party Room meeting for 9.00am on Monday 9 February to consider the spill motion.
It is important to end the uncertainty at the very beginning of the parliamentary sitting week.
The normal Party Room meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning will also go ahead in the usual way.
Just after 9am Abbott held a press conference to discuss his decision.
Here’s what he had to say.
“The last thing Australia needs right now is instability and uncertainty. On reflection and after talking to my colleagues, I’v decided the best thing we can do is deal with the spill motion as quickly as possible and put it behind us.
“Accordingly I have asked the Whip… to convene a party room meeting to deal with this matter.
“The only question for our party is: Do we want to reduced ourselves to the level of the Labor party in dragging down a first term Prime Minister?
“I’ve been talking to many colleagues over the last few days and my very strong sense is that we are determined to do what we were elected to do, to clean up Labor’s mess and to give our people the economic and national security that they need and deserve.”
A spill to determine the Liberal leadership was scheduled for Tuesday morning, after WA ministers Luke Simpkins and Don Randall proposed the motion on Friday afternoon. Read more on that here.
Just hours before Abbott’s date change Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who has been suggested as a likely leadership challenger by spill supporters, broke his silence to “compliment” the PM for respecting his party room by calling the motion to be heard on Tuesday.
When the new deadline was later announced by Abbott, Turnbull said he was not disappointed with the “Captain’s call”, a term which Liberal members have used to criticise Abbott in the past.
He also said that should the spill go ahead, any member who contends the leadership wouldn’t be showing disloyalty.
“Any member of the party, can stand whether a minister or a backbencher, without any disloyalty to the person whose leadership has been declared vacant,” he said.
“The leadership of the Liberal Party is uniquely a gift of the party room as John Howard has said.”
This is the first sign Turnbull made that could suggest his own loyalty to the PM is wavering.
And he’s not the only one.
A number of Liberal MPs have today criticised Abbott for bringing forward the spill motion, with one member saying he has hurt his own chances at Prime Ministership by doing so.
Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos, a former adviser to John Howard and well respected member of the parliament, has said he is disappointed with the decision and will now be voting for a spill. Read more on that here.
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