Australia’s anti-gay marriage PM Tony Abbott faces leadership challenge

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is staunchly opposed to same-sex marriage, has had his leadership challenged ahead of the country’s upcoming election.

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

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

“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.

“Now this is not a decision that anyone could take lightly. I have consulted with many, many colleagues, many Australians, many of our supporters in every walk of life.”

He went on to say he had been urged by many to take up the challenge.

“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.

“Now we are living as Australians in the most exciting time. The big economic changes that we’re living through here and around the world offer enormous challenges and enormous opportunities.”

Going on, Mr Turnbull took aim at Mr Abbott’s “leadership”, saying “we need a different style”.

He went on: “We need a style of leadership that explains those challenges and opportunities, explains the challenges 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 advocacy, not slogans. We need to respect the intelligence of the Australian people.

“The only way we can ensure that we remain a high wage, generous social welfare net, first world society is if we have outstanding economic leadership, if we have strong business confidence.

“That is what we in the Liberal Party are bound to deliver and it’s what I am committed to deliver if the partyroom gives me their support as leader of the party.”

Both the Abbott and Turnbull camps are currently counting votes to discover whether Turnbull has enough support to challenge.

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.