Politics

Malcolm Turnbull to challenge Tony Abbott for Liberal leadership

Broede Carmody /

Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has resigned from cabinet and requested a leadership ballot with the intention of challenging Tony Abbott for the prime ministership. 

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop is understood to have spoken to Prime Minister Tony Abbott before parliamentary Question Time, with Turnbull speaking to him shortly afterwards. 

Turnbull said this afternoon this is a decision he has “not taken lightly”, adding that he believes Tony Abbott hasn’t provided the economic leadership the country needs.

“We need advocacy, not slogans,” Turnbull said. 

“It is clear enough that the Government is not successful in providing the economic leadership that we need. It is not the fault of individual ministers. Ultimately, the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs. He has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.” 

Turnbull says Australia needs a style of leadership that explains complex issues and sets down a course of action. 

“We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people. Now if we continue with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister, it is clear enough what will happen. He’ll cease to be Prime Minister and he’ll be succeeded by Mr Shorten. You only have to see the catastrophically reckless approach of Mr Shorten to the China-Australia free trade agreement.” 

While Tony Abbott’s popularity with the electorate has fallen in the past two years, Malcolm Turnbull is considered to be the politician most supportive of business founders. 

A source has told the Financial Review that Turnbull comfortably has the numbers and Abbott is set to lose the leadership.

“We’ve got well, over 50 per cent,” the source told Fairfax.

The first MP to express his loyalty for Abbott is Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who last week spoke against the introduction of an effects test

Meanwhile, Queensland MP Wyatt Roy – who has advocated strongly for the need to invest in tech startups and the jobs of the future – has told the ABC he will be voting for Turnbull. 

“We need certainty”: small business reacts

Peter Strong, chief executive of the Small Business Council of Australia, told SmartCompany political uncertainty hurts small business. 

“We need certainty and confidence,” Strong says. 

“It’s an absolute necessity. We’ve been having this go on for years and it just saps people’s energy and confidence. We need certainty – end of story.” 

Strong says the last thing the business community wants is another spill in six months, calling for “no more games, no more silliness”. 

“If there is a new leader, we want them to be all over it when it comes to the point about small business,” he says.

Strong says if Turnbull does become the next leader of the Coalition, he hope he “doesn’t fall into bed with four or five big businesses and the Business Council of Australia”.

“He said in his speech he is doing this because of the economy in the future,” he says.

In the event there is no change in the party’s leadership, Strong says Abbott must lead a government with “no ambiguity”.

“If it’s not [Turnbull], we certainly need a government that is strong and united,” he says.

Kate Carnell, chief executive of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told SmartCompany at the end of the day business just wants serious leadership.

“Malcolm’s speech saying that business needs confidence, reform, direction and serious leadership is absolutely true,” Carnell says.

“What we need the Liberal Party to do is to resolve this leadership turmoil once and for all. For business to grow and employ it needs confidence. And confidence has been lacking.” 

Tony Abbott to defend his leadership

Abbott told reporters at a press conference this evening a situation similar to Labor’s “revolving door prime ministership” should be avoided at all costs. 

A ballot for the Liberal leadership and deputy leadership will be held this evening. 

“You can trust me to deliver a stronger economy and a safer community,” Abbott says. 

“I expect to win. Obviously I am dismayed by the destabilisation taking place now for many, many months. And I do say to my fellow Liberals that the destabilisation just has to stop. I firmly believe that our party is better than this, that our government is better than this, and by god, that our country is so much better than this.” 

Meanwhile, Treasurer Joe Hockey has defended the economic record of himself and the Prime Minister – describing Malcolm Turnbull’s claims about a lack of economic leadership as “completely unfounded”. 

“The disloyalty of some has been outrageous,” Hockey says. 

“We cannot, we must not, become a carbon copy of the Labor Party. We cannot and we must not make the same mistakes that were made in the Rudd and Gillard years. The Australian people deserve better. We must put the national interest ahead of any self-interest.” 

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Before this, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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