Australian PM Tony Abbott will fight leadership challenge: ‘I expect to win’

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Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will fight a challenge to his leadership of the Liberal Party.

Earlier today, Malcolm Turnbull announced that he would challenge Mr Abbott’s leadership. 

Abbott, who has continually opposed same-sex marriage, and who has banned coalition MPs from a free vote on the issue.

Speaking after Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Turnbull quit the cabinet. He said he had forewarned Abbott about the upcoming challenge to his leadership.

Shortly after, Mr Abbott made the following statement: “I have been heartened by the messages of support flooding into Liberal MPs’ offices this evening saying most emphatically, ‘We are not the Labor Party.’ I want to repeat that. I have been most heartened by the messages of support flooding in to Liberal MPs’ offices saying most emphatically, ‘We are not the Labor Party.’

“This country needs strong and stable government and that means avoiding, at all costs, Labor’s revolving-door prime ministership. Since coming to government, our team has stopped the boats, improved the Budget, cut taxes and increased jobs. We have laid the foundation for a better deal for families and for small business.

“You can trust me to deliver a stronger economy and a safer community.

“The prime ministership of this country is not a prize or a plaything to be demanded. It should be something which is earned by a vote of the Australian people.

“There will be a Party Room ballot for both the leadership and deputy leadership positions later this evening. I will be a candidate and I expect to win.

“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.

“Let me finish on this note – 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.”

A ballot is expected on Monday night.

The Liberal PM, who is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, threatened to sack any ministers who voted for same-sex marriage when it was set to come to a vote last month.

He later moved to avert a showdown with his own MPs over the issue, by proposing a plebiscite (public vote) instead and avoiding a Parliamentary debate.

Mr Abbott now wants to lock in a vote after the next federal election in 2017 – which means same-sex weddings will likely not begin for a number of years, thanks to his political manoeuvring.

However, equality activists aren’t taking the slight lying down – with a campaign launching to send a thousand rainbow-coloured potatoes to the PM.