Abbott faces worst poll figures

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 08 Februari 2015 | 23.08

Potential Liberal leadership contender Malcolm Turnbull has said he supports the prime minister.

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott is already facing a backlash over his decision to move forward a vote on a leadership spill to tomorrow morning.

Is he making a move? ... Malcolm and Lucy Turnbull leave a Liberal party fundraiser in Woollahra, Sydney today. Picture: Britta Campion Source: News Corp Australia

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott is facing an uphill battle after a Newspoll has revealed the Coalition's worst polling ­figures, and Liberal MPs are divided on the leadership spill.

The latest Newspoll, taken ­exclusively for The Australian, the Coalition's primary vote down three points to an eight-month low of 35 per cent. Labor is up two points to 41 per cent.

In two-party terms, the government's vote went to 43 per cent with Labor on 57 per cent, which is the Coalition's worst result since November 2009.

More on the Newspoll results at The Australian.


Tony Abbott has admitted he could be removed as leader on Monday but says he respects the party room and expects the result will accurately reflect their views.

"I would expect that if a minister was incapable of supporting the government that the minister in question would have spoken to me, and none of them have," he told ABC TV.

"We will see tomorrow what my colleagues believe.





Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives a statement to media at his Sydney Office ahead of tomorrows Liberal leadership spill. Picture Cameron Richardson. Source: DailyTelegraph

"What I'm saying to them is the last thing our country needs now is to see another government go into meltdown.

"I will not let this country down and I will not let my party down."

Mr Abbott promised his Government would be "different and better this year than we were in every respect last year".

"It's a pretty chastening experience to have a spill motion moved on you after just 16 months in government - a very chastening experience," he said.

"And I am determined that my Government, if it continues after tomorrow, will learn from this experience, will be different and better."


His comments come as Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison conducted a private conversation earlier today to discuss the party's future leadership.

It is understood Communications Minister Mr Turnbull was poised to make a statement later today to clarify his position on the leadership.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was also understood to have been prepared to make a statement.

But a spokesman for Mr Turnbull said he was: "not going to say or put out anything tonight".

It is understood Mr Turnbull changed his mind about making a statement after speaking with his advisory team.

News of the conversation comes as Tony Abbott has been meeting with at least two of his backbench MPs in a last ditch attempt to stop a successful leadership spill.

Touchdown in Canberra ... Mr Abbott with his wife Margie as they get off the plane. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: News Corp Australia

Last minute talks ... PM Abbott with his wife Margie at RAAF base Fairborn in Canberra today. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: News Corp Australia

The Prime Minister had meetings scheduled with maverick Queensland MPs Warren Entsch and Mal Brough to discuss their concerns over the party's future.

Mr Entsch told News Corp Australia he was still undecided on whether or not he would vote for a spill tomorrow and hoped that his concerns would be genuinely listened to in his meeting with Mr Abbott.

"My final decision won't be made until I am in the party room," Mr Entsch said.

Talking to the PM ... Warren Entsch arrives at Canberra Airport this afternoon. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Corp Australia

"I don't think the media should be doing the numbers."

Mr Entsch who has publicly expressed his concerns over the future of the Liberal party previously, said the Prime Minister's decision today to bring forward the party room meeting to 9am had "upset a lot of people".

"This meeting is something I had arranged when I had concerns before, but it is still going ahead this afternoon," he said.

It is not yet known if Mr Abbott will meet with more MPs concerned about the party's future direction.

Selfies all round ... Tony Abbott is mobbed by crowds on a walk through Chinatown. Picture: Damian Shaw Source: News Corp Australia

Margie, Bridget and Tony Abbott receive flowers in Chinatown in Sydney on the eve of a leadership spill. Picture: Damian Shaw Source: News Corp Australia


Mal Brough told News Corp Australia he had been trying to meet with the Prime Minister face to face since December.

He said that the meeting was not due to the spill motion but that "obviously" leadership issues would be discussed.

Mr Brough said he had been driving to Canberra from his Sunshine Coast home in Queensland to give him "plenty of time to think".

When asked if he would vote in favour of a spill motion or if the meeting with Mr Abbott would influence his decision he said: "I don't know yet".

"I might have something more to say about all of this later today," Mr Brough said.

In face-to-face meeting with PM ... MP Mal Brough. Picture: Glenn Barnes Source: News Corp Australia


Treasurer Joe Hockey said this afternoon that he would resign from the frontbench if he was to support anyone other than Mr Abbott in what will be seen as a pointed threat to his Liberal colleagues.

"The Prime Minister is not going to lose, he's going to win," Mr Hockey told Sky News.

Mr Hockey said the best way forward for the nation was to continue with the current leadership team.

"Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop and the entire team are providing strong leadership," he said.

"I haven't seen any alternate policies by anyone that will fix up the mess that Labor's left."

Mr Abbott this morning surprised the party by moving forward a scheduled party room meeting to 9am tomorrow but a backlash has already begun against the move, with MPs saying it is "desperate" and does not afford the party the right level of respect.




Fellow Tasmanian Andrew Nikolic called on West Australian MPs Luke Simpkins and Don Randall to withdraw their spill motion.

"I think what we're getting at the moment is the sort of introspection that the Australian people explicitly rejected in September 2013," he said.

Quizzed about another opinion poll showing the coalition would be better off with Malcolm Turnbull as leader, Mr Nikolic said: "So, let's blow the joint up every six months because the polls are bad? What a ridiculous assertion."

Abbott supporter ... Liberal backbencher Andrew Nikolic arrives at Canberra Airport. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Corp Australia

At Canberra airport, Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop also said she would be voting to oppose the motion for a leadership spill.

Senator Cory Bernardi also said he would not "betray" his Prime Minister, and enter a "moral abyss".

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said there was a "dark cloud" hanging over parliament as a result of the leadership tensions.

"The last time we had this dark cloud hanging over parliament was during the Rudd-Gillard years," Mr Dutton told Sky News.

He appealed to his colleagues to vote down the spill motion.

Mr Dutton said that it was the right move by Mr Abbott to move forward the party room meeting.

Abbott supporter ... Finance Minister Mathias Cormann arrives at Canberra Airport. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Corp Australia

"It was untenable to go into Question Time without this issue being resolved," he said.

Attorney-General George Brandis said that Mr Abbott had the "unanimous" support of cabinet.

"I believe all of my cabinet and frontbench colleagues will observe the appropriate conventions as they should," he told ABC News.

"I do believe the spill motion will be defeated tomorrow as it should be. We don't want to be like the Labor party."


In an email this afternoon, Shadow Minister for the Environment Mark Butler criticised Malcom Turnbull for his so-called commitment to climate change. He even cheekily referred to Mr Turnbull as "possibly your next Prime Minister".

"That's Communications Minister (and possibly your next Prime Minister) Malcolm Turnbull...As you read this email, there are reports that Turnbull will ditch his so-called climate change convictions just to get the top job."

Mr Butler's email claims Mr Turnbull is untrustworthy and his promises were "as useless as Tony Abbott's".

"If you can't trust Malcolm Turnbull on climate change, you can't trust him on anything. His promises are as useless as Tony Abbott's," the email stated.

Back in the capital ... Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrives at Canberra Airport. Picture: Ray Strange Source: News Corp Australia


Key independent senator Nick Xenophon has labelled the Liberal leadership crisis an embarrassing mess. "And I think that the entire nation is fed up with it," he told reporters in Canberra.

"It's as though they can't hear the rest of the nation screaming at what's going on," Senator Xenophon said, adding Australians had seen Labor tear itself apart and were now watching the Liberals do the same thing.

"This is no way to run a country."

Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer described the saga as a storm in a tea cup.

"What's more important is not individuals, but getting this country going with the right policies," he told reporters.


Respected NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos told News Corp Australia just moments after Mr Abbott's statement that the party room meeting should remain on Tuesday.

"I think we should stick with Tuesday and give the party room the respect it deserves," Senator Sinodinos said.

Senator Sinodinos said that he supported a spill.

Supporting a leadership spill vote ... Senator Arthur Sinodinos. Picture: Jeremy Piper Source: Supplied


Tonight, Wyatt Roy has confirmed he will be voting in favour of the spill taking place.

Victorian MP Sharman Stone also she believed there needed to be a spill and would vote for it in a ballot tomorrow.

"I believe there should be a spill," Ms Stone said.

She said that she didn't have a problem with it being moved forward a day.

"It doesn't change the way that I'm going to vote," Ms Stone said.

West Australian MP Dennis Jensen also confirmed that he would be voting in favour of a spill motion.

"Yes I will," Dr Jensen told News Corp Australia.

Dr Jensen said that he believed Mr Turnbull would stand as a leadership candidate.



One Liberal backbencher, who has been critical of Mr Abbott's leadership style, said the numbers on a spill motion remained "very close".

The backbencher said Mr Abbott's decision to make yet another "captain's call" and fast-track a meeting of the Liberal party room was being interpreted by many as evidence the Prime Minister was incapable of a more consultative approach.

Another Queensland backbencher said the decision to move the party room meeting forward had weakened the Prime Minister and could galvanise numbers against him.

"All he has done is signal to people that he is not in control, and some people are irate that Monday has been taken away from them."

Who should be Prime Minister?

The MP said that Mr Abbott would remain under a significant amount of pressure even if the spill motion was defeated but as many as 20 members of the Liberal party supported it.

A report that a deal could be struck to head off a leadership challenge by installing Mr Turnbull as Treasurer, were being hosed down by the anti-Abbott camp.

"I don't think it's a viable option, I don't think it's something Malcolm would consider, it sounds like a desperate ploy to me," one MP said.

Wants to be heard ... Teresa Gambaro arrives at Canberra airport. Picture: Gary Ramage Source: News Corp Australia

Teresa Gambaro, a former Howard government minister, said MPs deserved to have their views heard in a parliamentary democracy.

"We cannot govern ourselves in an internal climate of fear and intimidation," she said in a statement on Sunday, adding that was the "unacceptable situation we have endured for the past five years".

"Equally we cannot govern the country through belligerence and hubris."

Desperate measures ... Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives a statement at his Sydney office ahead of tomorrow's vote for a leadership spill. Picture: Cameron Richardson. Source: News Corp Australia

Privately other MPs have also spoke of their surprise of the move.

"This shows he's desperate and can't win," one MP said.

Another MP said it showed Mr Abbott didn't have the numbers.

"People are quite rattled by this," the MP said.

"I mean does he have the numbers or not?"

Parliament was due to move a motion of condolence for the victims of the Lindt cafe siege at 11am tomorrow and some MPs are saying moving the party room meeting to before that is not a good look.

"So we're going to be focused on all this leadership stuff instead. That's not a good look," one MP said.


Chief Whip Phillip Ruddock this morning said he believed MPs would have enough time to consider the leadership issues before tomorrow's meeting.

He said he spoke with Malcolm Turnbull this morning as well as the Prime Minister about the meeting being brought forward.

"I spoke to Malcolm as well," Mr Ruddock told Sky News.

"The view in the Prime Minister's mind is it is better to have the issue resolved quickly."

The PM and his accuser ... Tony Abbott talks with Western Australian MP Luke Simpkins, who has proposed the leadership spill motion, during Question Time. Source: News Limited

He said his colleagues were all "mature adults" and had plenty of time to reflect on the vote before it occurred.

"I don't think they need more time to reflect on them," Mr Ruddock said.

One of the first MPs to arrive in Canberra after the announcement, Tasmanian Brett Whiteley, says he won't be supporting a spill motion being proposed by two of his backbench colleagues.

"Politics is not about being popular, it's about getting what's right for our kids and our grandkids," he told reporters on Sunday. Mr Whiteley labelled the spill motion a distraction.


Malcolm Turnbull later this morning said the PM had made a "captains call" on changing the date of the scheduled party room meeting and would not confirm if he would put his hand up for the party's leadership.

"It is the Prime Minister's decision to hold the meeting on Tuesday — he's the Prime Minister he's made a captains call and changed the date of the meeting," said Mr Turnbull, who added that he was speaking to his colleagues today.

He was speaking as he arrived at a Liberal Party fundraiser in his Wentworth electorate. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop attended.

Colleagues today, perhaps enemies tomorrow ... Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull greets Foreign Minister Julia Bishop at a $100 per head Liberal Party Bellevue Hill Branch fundraiser brunch. Picture: Cameron Richardson Source: News Corp Australia

The Prime Minister moved the leadership spill to 9am Monday morning, an hour after Mr Turnbull praised him for scheduling it for Tuesday.

"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," he said in a statement.

"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."

Putting up a fight ... Prime Minister Tony Abbott at his Sydney office today. Picture: Cameron Richardson. Source: News Corp Australia

Mr Abbott gave a brief statement to media this morning urging his colleagues not to mirror Labor and throw out a first term prime minister.

"On reflection and taking to my colleagues, I've come to the view that the best thing we can do is deal with spill motion as quickly as possible and put it behind us," Mr Abbott said.

"The only question is do we want to reduce ourselves to the level of the Labor Party in dragging down a first time Prime Minister."

The news comes as Mr Turnbull said he would support the Prime Minister in voting against the spill motion for the Liberal leadership, but left open the possibility of taking over should the vote succeed.

Speaking to outside his home this morning, Mr Turnbull said he "supports the PM", but insisted "the party room must be respected".

"I believe one of our strengths as a party is we're a grassroots organisation and we've got to respect our members," Turnbull told Sky News.

Malcolm Turnbull greets Julia Bishop as they arrive as guests at a $100 per head Liberal Party Bellevue Hill Branch fundraiser today. Picture: Cameron Richardson Source: News Corp Australia

"I'm in the cabinet, of course I support the Prime Minister, everyone supports the Prime Minister. You don't have to keep on saying that all the time."

Ironically, the decision to move the leadership spill meeting to Monday comes after Mr Turnbull praised Mr Abbott's decision to give party members time to decide.

"Abbott's also, I think, 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."

Privately Mr Turnbull's backers are reading Mr Abbott's surprise party room meeting as a concession by the Prime Minister that he doesn't have the numbers.

"This shows he's desperate and can't win," one MP said.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was a sensible decision to move it to Monday morning.

"Malcolm's entitled to his view but I think he is wrong on that," he told Sky News.

"We've got to get on with the job of governing. This has been incredibly distracting. You couldn't imagine the PM going into Question Time with the spill motion hanging over his head."

Mr Turnbull's comments come as reports emerge of a last-minute 'peace deal' plan to install him as Treasurer, with several cabinet ministers urging the Prime Minister to replace him in the role.

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