Australia’s anti-gay marriage Prime Minister Tony Abbott ousted in leadership ballot

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been ousted in a leadership vote just hours after accepting the challenge.

Mr Abbott, who is a staunch opponent of same-sex marriage, lost out in the hastily arranged ballot with 44 votes to Malcolm Turnbull’s 54.

Just hours ago, Mr Abbott said: “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.”

Julie Bishop will also remain deputy leader of the party.

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

Mr Abbott, 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.

After Mr Abbott writes to the Governor General to resign, Mr Turnbull will be sworn in.

Despite reports that Mr Turnbull would still insist on a plebiscite for same-sex marriage, he has in the past said Australia is falling behind on the issue.

He also predicted that the coalition government would eventually allow a free vote on the issue.

More to follow.