New Move Against Abbott Imminent, Likely To Succeed

A FRESH ATTEMPT to remove Tony Abbott as Liberal leader and Prime Minister could be a matter of days away, as anger builds in the parliamentary party over his failure to meet commitments given to elude defeat a fortnight ago; a second move against Abbott is likely to succeed, and for even Abbott loyalists who wish to see the Prime Minister succeed, the reality must be faced that if he is brought down he will really only have himself to blame.

Another relatively quick post from me this morning, as I am on the run again today: and with a cracked tooth of all things to contend with, I have a lot to pack into a truncated day ahead of a meeting with the dentist late this afternoon.

I wanted to draw readers’ attention to an article being carried in sections of the Murdoch press today, which relates the developing story of a further attempt by Liberal MPs to oust Prime Minister Tony Abbott ahead of the state election to be held in NSW one month from now.

Readers know that despite decades of active support and advocacy for Tony Abbott, I have all but given up on him in the wake of the failed spill motion against him a fortnight ago; horrified by his retention of the incendiary Peta Credlin as his Chief of Staff and his failure to move Treasurer Joe Hockey to a different portfolio, the prospect of a second strike against Abbott has, in my view, rapidly escalated from “likely” to “certain:” and almost guaranteed to succeed.

It seems Abbott’s reticence to honour the commitments he made in return for being permitted to remain as leader has brought enough of his MPs to the same view for another challenge to be pulled on — and pulled on fairly quickly.

And I can’t say I am surprised.

It seems assurances, understandings, undertakings — however carefully nuanced or otherwise cleverly contrived — to get Credlin out of the Prime Minister’s Office were worthless; some minor fiddling around his divisive adviser’s role was never going to hoodwink MPs into failing to see that, in the main, this most malignant of tumours was always intended to remain embedded deep in the government’s internal organs: and that its politically counterproductive effects would continue to be felt.

The sacking of Liberal Party hero Philip Ruddock was, despite Abbott’s protestations about renewal and doing Ruddock “a favour,” was never going to hide the fact that the Liberal elder had been singled out and executed as a scapegoat for the first challenge.

The issue of shipbuilding firm ASC — apparently dealt back into consideration to build a new generation of submarines to placate MPs from South Australia — looks a bit too clever by half, with nondescript suggestions that 500 jobs will be thrown ASC’s way as part of an eventual contract that will nonetheless still go to a foreign firm as the dudded MPs in that state now realise.

And with details of acrid, hostile meetings of MPs with Abbott, who is said to “slap down” continuing criticism — and who has seen to it that press reports of him since the abortive putsch have described him as being at “the peak of his powers” — it was only a matter of time before we returned to the issue of the Liberal leadership.

Indeed, it seems Abbott and his junta have gone out of their way to poke the very MPs who voted down the spill attempt in the eyes.

As we discussed the other day, the NSW election is a real and salient problem; the Baird government’s polling has moved onto a virtually identical trajectory to the one Queensland’s LNP followed at the same stage of that state’s electoral cycle, and it presents a painful consideration in terms of any fresh move on Abbott.

Leave it too late — in the name of giving Premier Mike Baird some clear air — and the risk is that the percolating enmity over the federal Liberal leadership helps cost the party government in NSW; pull the challenge on now and get it out of the way quickly, and the risk is that NSW Labor is handed a potent “disunity” card to play against the Premier as it seeks to achieve a win as unlikely as that pulled off by its northern cousin last month.

If the change has to happen, I think doing it sooner rather than later is the cleanest and smartest option: at least if the boil is lanced, the wound may heal enough before NSW voters go to the polls to mitigate the risks of cross-infection.

It would also allow a new Prime Minister to quickly remove Treasurer Joe Hockey, in whom I believe voters, Liberal MPs and the party rank and file can have no confidence that a second federal budget delivered by him would be any better or more politically adept than his first disastrous and toxic effort was.

We will follow this as it develops, and let me assure people that far from taking any joy in this, the “here we go again” sentiment in which I write this is tempered by great disappointment that of Abbott — who I think could have been an excellent Prime Minister — it is a tragedy that it should all have come to this.

In the end, however, he has abrogated government in this country to an unelected adviser: and from that single reprehensible error, virtually all of the Abbott government’s problems, directly or indirectly, have sprung.

I would encourage those resolutely opposed to the prospect of Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister — as I am — to do all they can to voice support for Foreign minister Julie Bishop in their respective circles; and to contact the offices of Bishop and Trade minister Andrew Robb to encourage the pair to run a joint ticket in order to put down any move on the top job by the member for Wentworth.

In the end — for conservatives — the Right has no plausible candidate to replace Abbott, and no plausible leadership prospect for the first time in decades.

The next best thing is to do the deal with Bishop to retain one of its own as deputy, along with promotion for a handful of additional up-and-comers from the Right, to ensure it is better placed at future leadership contests.

I will say more as this percolates away in coming days and will be back this evening to talk about something else.

But if Abbott is now cut down, he will have only himself to blame: and with the chances of a second move against him almost certain to succeed, this column restates its view that a Bishop-Robb leadership team represents the very best alternative open to the Liberal Party at this point in time.



38 thoughts on “New Move Against Abbott Imminent, Likely To Succeed

  1. So Tony Abbott has misled his own MPs on the SA submarine issue and on the changes he would make to the PMO, what a surprise. In not just the best interests of the Liberals, but the nation, Abbott has to go quickly.

  2. Interesting, your suggestion that Bishop should seek a ticket with Robb is what I’ve always thought the Right would do. The Bishop, Turnbull, Morrison troika came as a real surprise to me.

    • Hi Drag0nista, I think the Right is still flirting with the idea of running Robb against Turnbull, and whilst Robb is a good man, I think this is a recipe to hand the leadership over to Turnbull when it is put to the vote.

      In what way does the bishop/Turnbull/Morrison troika surprise you? I’d love to respond to that but I might get hold of the wrong end of the stick without clarifying first!

      • I had assumed the Right would not contemplate Turnbull and they’d be trying to stitch up a Bishop/Robb or Bishop/Morrison deal. I hadn’t anticipated the three forming a bloc.

        • I think the situation is still very fluid Drag0nista — and just who heads the ticket to replace Abbott will tell us a lot about the triumvirate and/or who deputises to whom. I find it inconceivable Turnbull would deputise to anyone. But I don’t think he’s doing himself many favours in locking votes in by the way he seems to be going about it.

          The obvious candidate is (clearly) Turnbull but even setting aside my flat opposition to him as leader, I think very many of her colleagues will find Bishop an appealing option to a man they too despise.

          I don’t think we have long to find out.

  3. I don’t think it’s possible for a Bishop/Robb ticket to fly. Firstly, Bishop will be concerned over the parallels of a female deputy taking the leadership from a first term PM, as petty and stupid as that concern is, the fact is the electorate probably wont get over that comparison.

    Also while the right wing of the Liberal party and their supporters like yourself may hate the prospect of Turnbull becoming PM, I think the voters have already started to imagine Turnbull in the position of PM and it will be confusing and a bit of a shock if Bishop/Robb suddenly come in as outsiders.

    I think Bishop could one day make a good PM (I’m not going to say great because I disagree with her politics), but she would be strong and would be able to unite people. I don’t think this would be the time for her to make the move.

    I think you’ll have to get use to the idea of a Turnbull government.

  4. No, please repeat the political folly of the Rudd-Gillard governments – all of it, to the last particular. I want to see a rushed and unprepared Julie Bishop prime ministership, I’d like to see Abbott who hates her spend the rest of his days sniping and leaking from the sidelines, and shortly before she falls I’d like to see her play the card of last resort, the gender card while complaining about men in blue ties. After she’s sworn in she’ll try to distance herself from the government in which she was deputy, by saying that the Abbott government was “a good government that lost its way” (after all, that’s what the right wing wants to say too isn’t it?). I’d like her to nominate her policy agenda as being exactly the same as Abbott government’s agenda, except for a minor deviation or two – such let’s go nuclear! No one’s going to buy nuclear from these salespeople however, so the nuclear issue will get killed off and put into the too hard basket like all other reform. Finally, we’ll see a new prime minister, Bill Shorten, who should otherwise have been unelectable.

    • Yes, the same Julie Bishop who has spent 17 years in Parliament — six of them as a minister and another six as a shadow minister – just over seven years as deputy leader and a fine ministerial performer across a variety of portfolios under both John Howard and Tony Abbott.

      As opposed to Julia Gillard with her 30 months’ ministerial experience before becoming Prime Minister.

      Whatever “rushed and unprepared” looks like, Julie Bishop is not it.

      • Well, since you’ve thought this all out – why not explain the politics of it to me. How does Julie Bishop turn this around and win the next election? Given 17 years in Parliament, it should be fairly easy to identify her vision for the future. So do tell me what that is. You’ve shown that her ministerial experience is second to none. She’s been Education Minister, just like Julia Gillard, in a government that largely failed in the area of education – and also Minister assisting the PM on Women’s Issues. She’s demonstrated her Gillard-like negotiation skills as Foreign Minister – no doubt about that. She failed abysmally as the Shadow Treasurer, but who cares about economics right? Underperforming in the Shadow Treasury portfolio never stopped Joe Hockey, right? But seriously- what’s the game plan here. Or do you think “not being Malcolm Turnbull” is pretty much all it takes to be the prime minister of Australia – and go on to win an almost unwinnable election?

        • Seeing you have paid such close attention to the politics Alex, you could perhaps reconcile your election-winning candidate, Turnbull, with the fact that last time he led the Liberal Party its primary vote had a “2” in front of it as a huge chunk of the party’s conservative wing abandoned it. How you explain away the fact that all the lefties inflating his numbers as preferred Liberal leader would never vote Liberal in a pink fit (despite solemn proclamations otherwise) even if the party were led by Turnbull? Or the fact that a very large number of conservative voters will simply vote informal to withhold support from Turnbull as leader personally, and to avoid being forced by the preferential voting system to vote for someone equally as unpalatable?

          Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister might appeal to economic liberals with a very left-leaning social view — the makeup of the man himself — but outside his own trendy inner-Sydney electorate there are simply not all that many such people who look at Turnbull and see a natural fit with their own outlook.

          No political leader is ideal, but frankly your caricaturisation of Julie Bishop is ridiculous. And as an attempted defence of Malcolm Turnbull as a competitive candidate against her, entirely unconvincing at that. You eloquently omit the fact that Turnbull’s own record as a minister to date has failed to slash the outlays on the NBN, failed to downsize the ABC and make it accountable, failed to convince anyone on the issue of free speech, and failed to resolve the mess about “metadata” the government has blundered into.

          Apart from being a beacon for those who would like to sabotage the electoral viability of this government, it is difficult to see what role — except, to be clear, Treasurer — Turnbull is even ideally suited to in a Liberal/Conservative government. It most certainly isn’t in a capacity of leadership.

          • It continues to look like you haven’t given any thought at all to the politics of this or exactly how Julie Bishop could win the 2016 election, reinforcing the impression that your advocacy is based entirely on “anyone but Malcolm” thinking.

            I fail to see any relevance in Turnbull’s poll numbers after Utegate and during the ETS debates, which were themselves during Kevin Rudd’s rockstar-like extended honeymoon with voters. How was John Howard doing against Bob Hawke before his leadership ended in failure? What do you make of Paul Keating’s poll numbers in 1996, considering his brilliant political successes in the 1987, 1990 and 1993 elections? What we do know is that Turnbull performed brilliantly as chairman, director and managing director of a number of companies, as well as founder of Ozemail and chairman of the Australian Republican Movement.

            What I find most puzzling is you seem to be thinking that the 2016 election will be a contest between the hard right and the hard left – at a time when the reality is we have more swinging voters than ever. Who cares who the ABC audience will vote for. Who are the swinging voters going to vote for – a popular, well known, economically competent, socially progressive leader with brilliant communication skills? Or Julie Bishop, a mostly unknown quantity, scarred by association as Abbott’s deputy over five years, unable to communicate economic policy as Shadow Treasurer? No, I think you’re quite right that Green voters just love Turnbull for his belief in climate change and you’re quite right that they’ll continue to vote Green at the next election.

            Meanwhile, you seem to say that Turnbull couldn’t win because he’d lose the conservative wing. I had no idea your opinion of the conservative wing was so low that you think they’d issue donkey votes in droves. Are you saying that conservatives are so stupid that they can’t tell the difference between a donkey vote and giving preferences to the opposition? I think you know very well that conservatives will vote for Turnbull, rather than preference Bill Shorten.

            As far as Turnbull’s performance as communications minister, it’s widely recognised by everyone that he’s performed brilliantly. Sure, within the parameters of the idiotic promises Tony Abbott made on the subject of the NBN prior to the election, it’s impossible to implement good NBN policy. Considering that Tony Abbott promised no cuts to the ABC, it’s a bit ridiculous blaming Turnbull for the worst of all worlds outcome Abbott’s achieved there (“what if we break our election promises just enough to anger pretty much everyone but not enough to matter to the budget”).

            As for free speech and metadata, well we all know that Abbott hasn’t been consulting with Turnbull on these issues, has he.

            Turnbull comes out of this relatively unharmed. No one blames Turnbull for the failures Tony Abbott’s forced on him. No one anywhere thinks Turnbull is in any way responsible for anything that’s happened since he was turfed as leader in 2009. We all know exactly who he is and what he stands for. He had nothing whatever to do with Abbott’s disastrous budget or his ridiculous now-broken election promises. I expect he’ll wipe the floor with Shorten in 2016.

            In any case, I definitely will vote for Turnbull whereas I’ll never vote for any continuation of the Abbott government’s agenda.

          • Yale, I think you had better get used to the idea of a Turnbull PM, trendy inner Sydney electorate and all, a latte sipping lefty in wolf’s clothing, harbouring socialist views on climate change and liberal economics – it’s comical hearing the Libs railing against one of their own.

  5. I am inclined to agree with Greg Deane’s comment earlier this week that you seem to be letting your emotions discolour your viewoint of our PM.
    I am rather inclined to agree more with Miranda Devine when she says

    ” God knows the PM has lost his way in his short period in office, but the unreasonable vitriol from his detractors will only drive voters back to him, which is probably reflected in his opinion poll turnaround over the weekend. He’s still unpopular, but significantly less so than he was a week ago.

    What’s changed is that we are starting to see the authentic Tony Abbott who people expected as Prime Minister, instead of the constipated robot that turned up in his place.

    No more trying to appease the politically correct. No more bowing to moral relativism. And no more pretending Islam has nothing to do with the terrorism that is committed in its name. ”

    If he continues on this tack he will garner more and more support from the hinterland as people rise to the triple threat posed by Islam, Agenda 21, and an economy beaten to a pulp by the previous rabble. After all, there is nothing but a vacuum in the Commie/Fascist ALP/Green camp. Did you hear that interview with Natalie Bennett in the UK? If only the MSM would grill the mangy Milne and Sarah Sea Patrol with the same kind of probing questions!

    • Karabar, the authentic Tony Abbott we are seeing and have done since he became PM is the misleading, obfuscating, no detail behind the slogans, “I’ll do anything except sell my arse”, excuse driven apology for a leader.
      He is beyond help, and a swift departure would be best for everyone, even you.

      • You are welcome to your weird delusions of course. I realise that reality is a very difficult thing for you to grasp. The world must appear very strange through crimson glasses. However, there is no requirement for me to share your fantasies with you.

        • Karabar, itseems my weird delusions are held by the majority when it comes to Tony Abbott, according to all the polls. Just continue to foment those conspiracy theories and stock up on candles.

    • karabar, once again I think you have taken me out of context to a degree – I am talking about what happens if Abbott is pushed overboard here.

      You may be right that Abbott is starting to show signs he might hit his straps or you might not, but the question is largely academic now: rightly or wrongly, in two weeks since surviving a leadership spill he has enraged his MPs sufficiently to embolden them to have a final, fatal attempt at finishing him off for good.

      If that comes to pass (and I have more reason than just the story in the Daily Telegraph to think it will) then Bishop-Robb is simply the best replacement ticket (in my opinion) and in any case, an alternative that slams the door on “Malcolm Bullshit” as you call him can only be a good thing, can’t it?

      • Anything but Turncoat. However, I have grave concerns about this up coming COP15, and the role Julie might play in it. A signature on the wrong line could sink this country into a mire from which it has no hope of escape. The fevered pitch with which the Left is chasing the AGW scam means they are dead set on establishing 21 in permanence. We need a strong hand on the tiller. In that regard I think Morrison is the more logical.

  6. I think only a Turnbull option provides any real possibility. The community don’t want a right wing hard ass government that has a paternal view of the community.

    • Hi Alan, and welcome. I would hope Julie Bishop wouldn’t stand accused of taking a paternalistic view of the community…

      That said, whilst she is acceptable to the Right where Turnbull is not, I think you would find a government led by her would be more moderately conservative than the hard-arsed scenario you contemplate.

      Either way, and As I have said both in this forum and elsewhere, there is nothing remotely conservative about this government, which has engaged in trying to jack up taxes to avoid the REALLY tough calls on spending cuts it should have attempted from the outset, but didn’t. Shiny Labor spending programs might be well meant (if designed to booby trap the budget for an incoming Liberal government), but they were unaffordable when they were introduced and they are unaffordable now.

      Adding bits and pieces to the tax burden to avoid trying to abolish them is a reprehensible way to go about it, and could hardly be described as “conservative” or right wing.

  7. Scott Morrison is a no nonsense proven performer in tight and so called impossible portfolios – give him another – The Prime Minister ship.
    There really is no other suitable candidate if the Liberals are hell bent on pursuing the avenue of the public hated dumping of a P.M.
    I rue the day that we have sunk that low.

  8. I see the leftist controlled education and media sectors are bearing more strange fruit. Going to an election with the promises of stopping illegal immigration and deaths at sea, removing the carbon and mining taxes, and stopping the profligate spending, is now regarded as ‘right wing’, or if you have a university education (preferably arts), ‘hard right’.
    Actually keeping all of those promises bar reducing the spending, is now described as ‘being a paternal right wing hard-ass’.

  9. The Labour Party has always, in recent history, worked on promising to rob Peter to get them Paul’s support. Distributing income from a mining tax to their supporters before any cash is received is just one example so crumbs are thrown to the masses while the not so faceless men, gorge themselves on garnering wealth by abuse of position. In all this, let it not be forgot, labor sells out the long suffering mute majority to the interests of minorities to accumulate enough support to put them in the saddle at any price. They do not pay for it, we do! Talk about the libs capitalising profits and socialising losses is from a time long gone. If we had first past the post voting so that the majority had its candidates elected, labour would be in opposition almost forever and the country governable again!

    • I despise preferential voting, Rasputin. It’s code for allowing losers to win. This crap about the “most preferred” candidate being elected is a nonsense when the system actually forces you to express favourable sentiment (even by degrees) in parties and candidates you would never choose to express.

      Let the party and/or candidate with the most support win, I say. It would force these no-hoper non-entities to get out and gather votes instead of slithering into office on the effluent votes of even more execrable entities than themselves.

          • So,if you can win an election with 35% of the vote,as has happened,that’s alright then.The 65% can like it or lump it.The liberal party has been carried to power by the nationals and now that labor is being carried to power by the greens,you don’t like it.Look at queensland where the greens received almost 9% of the vote and didn’t get a cracker.What else could the poor bastards do but preference labor.

  10. The only reason this issue will not go away – is the oxygen that the media and yes, sorry Yale, blogs like this keep giving it.
    Our P.M has not done anything to deserve sacking.
    He has done a great job but all of the good is being smothered by this ridiculous ‘gossip’.
    So , some bedwetting backbenchers don’t like his staff – get over it.
    They are acting like children and ‘will’ be punished at the next election.
    There is nothing that won’t be forgiven as much as the dumping of a Prime Minister, mark my words.

    • Big Sis, there are things going on behind the scenes that this blog does not or cannot influence: in this case specifically, it is the undertakings that were given to Liberal MPs to stave off a leadership challenge that have been reneged upon.

      Those matters are not gossip but fact, and sit in the past tense.

      I am very, VERY reliably informed from multiple sources (that have nothing to do with any media outlet, although I provide links to reports that coincide with the material I cover) that contrary to your assertion, the problem is almost entirely caused by Tony Abbott’s staff — and by one member of it in particular.

      Believe me, I would prefer Abbott to remain Prime Minister and attain re-election but I have reluctantly formed the view that this is now impossible.

      I am also on record as being vehemently opposed to a change of leadership if it results in Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister under any and all circumstances.

      Perversely, you may be right: removing Abbott may very well end in an election defeat.

      Where I disagree with you completely is over the causal factor: Peta Credlin, and the entire artifice constructed by and around her, is the villain in this piece and far from lambasting MPs for trying to remove her and now looking to act on it themselves when that failed, the MPs are playing the final card available to them in a desperate attempt to avert electoral catastrophe (and that is not overly dramatic language to use).

      If a change of leader to anyone other than Turnbull still culminates in electoral defeat, then it is because the damage inflicted on this government will have proven irreparable, not because the leadership was changed.

      Of course, if Turnbull leads the party to defeat then one would say it was always destined to be so.

      The “bedwetting backbenchers” accounted for 40% of the party last time – and that was with 42MPs (or another 42%) bound by ministerial solidarity to oppose the spill. Half those MPs could be expected in a free vote to move to oust Abbott, and the issue is Peta Credlin and the dysfunctional management of the PMO she has overseen.

      So really, the PM enters what looms as a final, fatal strike on his leadership with more than 60% of the party against him.

      It’s a little weightier a rebellion than a few “bedwetting backbenchers.”

      All he had to do to avoid this was remove Credlin, but of course that’s too much to ask: she is more important than the government, the Liberal Party, and their obligations to the country.

      I don’t think so. If you’re disinclined to support Malcolm Turnbull then the time to get vocal, influential and persuasive in favour of Julie Bishop (I understand Morrison will not stand as leader) is now.

      Literally now. This will erupt as soon as the weekend for a vote early next week.

      That isn’t gossip, it’s a fact.

      In any case, Turnbul has been advised by backbench MPs that the numbers are now firm for a move against the Prime Minister.

  11. Perhaps Yale, however, a change in leadership will make not one iota of difference to the following:
    1. The hostile Senate – the inability to pass legislation.
    2. The $40billion annual spending not being cured because of that Senate
    3. The Palmer factor
    4. Jacqui Lambie

    The only thing it will undoubtedly change, is our ability to win the next election.
    I ask, is it really worth it?
    Why is that fact not as clear to the ‘bedwetters’ as the noses on their proverbial faces?

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