In Depth

Australian PM Tony Abbott: out of the job by next week?

Liberal leader vows to stand united with his deputy as backbenchers launch 'spill' leadership challenge

Australia's Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, is fighting for his political future after backbenchers launched a leadership challenge, known as a 'spill'. Abbott announced this morning that his deputy, Julie Bishop, will join him in voting against the move.

Bishop, who is foreign minister as well as deputy PM, confirmed that she would oppose the leadership challenge, saying: "Due to cabinet solidarity and my position as deputy there should be support for current leadership."

Crucially, in her statement, Bishop does not rule out standing to replace Abbott if he does get the push. The Guardian says he could be removed from office as early as next week if the vote on Tuesday goes against him.

It's a dramatic fall from grace for the super-fit, right-wing Liberal leader (Abbott runs triathlons) who promised to end the chaos and uncertainty of the last Labor government, which suffered multiple leadership challenges and other crises.

Abbott's budget back in May was widely criticised as unfair. A series of mis-steps in the months since then culminated in his party's calamitous defeat in Queensland's state parliament elections last week, for which Abbott took a large chunk of the blame.

Now Lenore Taylor, Guardian Australia's political editor, says Abbott's government is itself perceived as "chaotic and dysfunctional", with some of its latest policies "contradictory nonsense".

But it was Abbott's decision to award Prince Philip a knighthood announced last week, that was the "game changer", says the BBC. While the honour went largely unnoticed in the UK, it caused a furore in Australia.

Liberal MP Luke Simpkins, who has called Tuesday's spill, said the Philip debacle was "for many the final proof of a disconnection with the people". He said he had no leadership ambitions himself but wanted to ensure Labor did not get back into power.

The timing of the decision to reward Phillip for his "long life of service and dedication" was particularly offensive to Australians uncomfortable with the nature of their relationship with the British monarchy: it was announced on Australia Day.

Abbott first attracted the scorn of republicans and others in March last year when he revived knighthoods and damehoods – abolished by Bob Hawke's Labor government in the 1980s – as a "higher honour" above the existing Order of Australia.

Back then, ABC quoted the Australian Republican Movement's national director, David Morris, who said the plan was a return "to another frame of mind, a colonial frame of mind, one that we've outgrown".

Prominent republican Janet Holmes went further, saying: "I think people will think this is some kind of joke and we will all wake up and think this is some kind of bad dream."

Now the nightmare seems to be Abbott's. Malcolm Turnbull, communications minister and the man ousted by Abbott as opposition leader in 2009, is seen as his most likely successor, if the spill motion is upheld. 

Recommended

Putin and Russia’s territorial ambitions
A large column of Russian military vehicles and troops move in the direction of the Crimean capital of Simferopol in February 2014
Getting to grips with . . .

Putin and Russia’s territorial ambitions

‘Cabinet angry at defending Johnson again’
Today’s newspaper front pages
Today’s newspapers

‘Cabinet angry at defending Johnson again’

No. 10 tells Peter Andre: siestas wouldn’t work here
Peter Andre on stage
Tall Tales

No. 10 tells Peter Andre: siestas wouldn’t work here

Grey squirrels could run up £37m tree bill
A grey squirrel
Tall Tales

Grey squirrels could run up £37m tree bill

Popular articles

Are we heading for World War Three?
Ukrainian soldiers patrol on the frontline in Zolote, Ukraine
In Depth

Are we heading for World War Three?

What happened to Logan Mwangi?
Tributes left to Logan Mwangi
Today’s big question

What happened to Logan Mwangi?

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?
Nato troops
Today’s big question

Nato vs. Russia: who would win in a war?

The Week Footer Banner