News National The life of Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader

The life of Tony Abbott as Liberal Party leader

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The date was December 1, 2009, when Tony Abbott first became the leader of the Liberal Party.

His appointment came after a spill and the man he beat by one vote was none other than Malcolm Turnbull.

It was a victory that must have made Mr Turnbull’s triumph on Monday evening even more satisfying.

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Mr Abbott’s first significant move as Liberal leader was to announce a paid parental leave scheme, covering six months of salary, up to $150,000, for new parents.

In June 2010, Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister in a leadership ballot and she formed a minority government after the following month’s election, in which the Coalition and Labor won 72 seats each – resulting in hung parliament.

Mr Abbott remained the Opposition Leader and, sensing danger in June 2013, Labor only increased his chances of becoming Prime Minister when they replaced Ms Gillard with Mr Rudd.

In truth, Labor were in disarray and it was no surprise to see Mr Abbott elected as Prime Minister in September 2013.

The Coalition won in a landslide – 90 votes to Labor’s 55.

Mr Abbott after being elected as PM in 2013. Photo: Getty
Mr Abbott after being elected as PM in 2013. Photo: Getty

Joe Hockey’s first budget as Treasurer was not received well in May 2014, with the GP co-payment, university deregulation and cuts to welfare spending included.

The Carbon tax was repealed on a third attempt after negotiations with Palmer United Party senators in July, while in November of 2014, the Napthine Coalition’s loss of government in Victoria was blamed partially on Mr Abbott’s government.

But it was in 2015 that things really started to unravel for Mr Abbott.

An Australia Day knighthood for Prince Philip backfired, drawing widespread criticism. Mr Abbott later admitted the move was a ‘stuff-up’.

And while he steered clear of Campbell Newman’s election campaign in Queensland, his devastating defeat was partially blamed on the Prime Minister.

Then he decided to drop his signature paid parental leave in February.

A leadership spill followed, with the motion put forward by West Australian MPs Luke Simpkins and Don Randall.

Mr Abbott survived the spill, winning 61-39 with no challenger declared, before declaring ‘good government’ was to start then and there.

But he offended Indigenous Australians in March by saying those living in remote communities did so as ‘lifestyle choices’ before the expenses saga blew up in July when it was revealed then-Speaker Bronwyn Bishop chartered a $5000 helicopter flight to attend a Liberal Party fundraiser in Geelong.

Later in July, Mr Randall sadly died of a heart attack, triggering a by-election in the supposedly safe Canning seat.

Polls quickly showed a likely large swing away from the Liberal Party, only serving to increase the pressure on Mr Abbott.

Mrs Bishop resigned as Speaker in August, a month that also saw Mr Abbott confirming a no conscience vote on same-sex marriage after a six-hour debate and the government handed another double dissolution trigger – this time after the Senate blocked legislation to crack down on dodgy union bosses.

And then it came.

September 14 – the day it all came crashing down.

At 4.04pm (AEST), Mr Turnbull announced his intention to challenge Mr Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party – and, as a result, the prime ministership.

A spill was called for the positions of leader and deputy leader at 9.15pm (AEST), and Mr Turnbull won the ballot for leader, with 54 votes to 44 – and one informal vote, while Julie Bishop remained as deputy leader.

And that was that. After five years, nine months and 19 days, Mr Abbott was no longer the leader of the Liberals.

– with AAP

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