Malcolm Turnbull’s challenge for the leadership of the Liberal Party and prime ministership will go to a vote on Monday evening.
The former Liberal Party leader announced on Monday afternoon that he had stepped down from the Cabinet ahead of the leadership ballot, where he will battle Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Turnbull, who has relinquished his position as Communications Minister, used the declaration to launch a stinging attack on Mr Abbott, saying the Liberals needed “advocacy not slogans” and an end to “policy on the run” and “captain’s calls”.
He did not take questions, saying he had to “speak to colleagues”.
Responding to the challenge, Mr Abbott said his party was “not the Labor Party” with its “revolving door leadership” and that a vote would take place on Monday night.
He said the leadership was not a “play-thing to be demanded” and called on people to “trust him” to look after Australia’s economy.
“Obviously, I am dismayed by the destabilisation that’s been taking place now for many, many months and I do say to my fellow Liberals that the destabilisation just has to stop,” he told reporters.
Treasurer Joe Hockey supported the prime minister, saying the disloyalty of some in the Liberal Party had been “outrageous”.
According to reports, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – also the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party – will run as Mr Turnbull’s deputy in the ballot.
Ms Bishop and Mr Turnbull are said to have visited Mr Abbott’s office before and after question time, respectively, to inform him of the challenge.
“A little while ago I met with the Prime Minister and advised him that I would be challenging him for the leadership of the Liberal Party,” Mr Turnbull said at his announcement.
“I asked him to arrange or facilitate a meeting of the party room to enable a leadership ballot to be held.”
When speaking on the legacy of his opponent, Mr Turnbull pulled no punches in his criticism.
He said the government had lost 30 Newspolls in a row and that meant it was clear the Australian people had made their minds up about Mr Abbott.
“Ultimately, the Prime Minister has not been capable of providing the economic leadership our nation needs,” he said.
“He has not been capable of providing the economic confidence that business needs.
“There must be an end to policy on the run and captain’s calls. We need advocacy, not slogans.”
Mr Turnbull warned that if Mr Abbott continued to be Prime Minister, the consequences of a Labor government, led by Bill Shorten, would be diabolical.
“If we continue with Mr Abbott as Prime Minister, it is clear enough what will happen,” he added.
“He will 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.”
Mr Turnbull’s office confirmed that he would stick with party policy on two key issues where his opinion differs from the prime minister.
If chosen as leader, his office said he would stick with the Coalition’s current carbon-emissions targets and put the issue of same-sex marriage to a plebiscite.
Watch Mr Turnbull’s announcement below
The former Communications Minister also stressed that the Australian people deserved to be led in a better way.
“We need a different style of leadership,” he continued.
“We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities…[and] how to seize the opportunities.
“A style of leadership that respects the people’s intelligence, that explains these complex issues and then sets out the course of action we believe we should take, and makes a case for it.
“We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.”