Pyne’s pitfalls, and the wind from the west: How the Liberal leadership crisis unfolded

January 15: The government backs down on its $20 Medicare cut. The reduced rebate had been widely criticised by doctors. Labor said the Coalition’s health policies were in a “shambles”. Only 24 hours earlier, Tony Abbott had been robustly defending the cut.
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January 26: Abbott announces that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh will be knighted, a move which was widely ridiculed and raised internal questions about his judgment. He later confirmed it was a “captain’s call”.

January 28: Rupert Murdoch tweets that Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin should be sacked. “Tough to write, but if he won’t replace top aide Peta Credlin she must do her patriotic duty and resign …” he wrote.

January 31: Campbell Newman’s Liberal government suffers a massive backlash in the Queensland election. Meanwhile Queensland MP Mal Brough reveals he could challenge Abbott.

Feburary 1: Abbott meets Julie Bishop in Sydney to discuss leadership

February 2: Abbott delivers a speech at the National Press Club, admitting that he had made some mistakes, but he was not considering resigning.

Jeff Kennett says the Liberal Party’s leadership was now “terminal”. “It needs to be resolved as quickly as possible so that the party can move on,” he said.

February 5: Abbott tells the media he is “confident” that he will be leader next week, but news of a secret leadership meeting with Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull emerges. February 6:  A motion is called for a leadership spill by WA MP Luke Simkins. Tony Abbott says Julie Bishop and he will stand together during the motion on Tuesday (10 February). 

February 6: 6am: Christopher Pyne says he “hopes” the Prime Minister still has the numbers in the party room, raising speculation Abbott’s support in the cabinet is waning.

1pm: Bishop refuses to quell rumours of the spill motion, saying she does not have any advice for her colleagues because they are elected members of Parliament and “they take whatever action they see fit”.

1.30pm: West Australian MP Luke Simpkins writes an email to his colleague, announcing he will move a spill against Abbott. Fellow West Australian MP Don Randall supports it. Both are supporters of Bishop.

1.50pm: Phillip Ruddock, the chief government whip, writes an email confirming a motion will be moved by a secret ballot that the “senior positions of the federal parliamentary Liberal Party be declared vacant” on Tuesday.

3.10pm: Social Services Minister Scott Morrison says he will not contend the leadership.

3.30pm: Abbott fronts the media in a short conference, where he confirms the spill of the two positions, but says he and Bishop will stand together to defeat the motion.

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