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Australian Politics: PM Abbott in mad panic - Brings crucial no confidence vote forward 24 hours

Abbott moves leadership
 spill to Monday.
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott is already facing a backlash over his decision to move forward a vote on a leadership spill to tomorrow morning.

Respected NSW Senator Arthur Sinodinos told News Corp Australia just moments after Mr Abbott’s statement that the party room meeting should remain on Tuesday.

“I think we should stick with Tuesday and give the party room the respect it deserves,” Senator Sinodinos said.

Privately other MPs have also spoke of their surprise of the move.

A motion of condolence for the victims of the Lindt cafe siege was due to be held in parliament at 11am and many MPs have said they are surprised the Prime Minister would want to overshadow that with a party room meeting.

Malcolm Turnbull says
 he “supports the PM”.
The Prime Minister moved the leadership spill to 9am Monday morning, an hour after Malcolm Turnbull praised him for scheduling it for Tuesday.

“This morning, I have asked the Chief Government Whip to call a special Party Room meeting for 9.00am on Monday 9 February to consider the spill motion,” he said in a statement.

“It is important to end the uncertainty at the very beginning of the parliamentary sitting week. The normal Party Room meeting scheduled for Tuesday morning will also go ahead in the usual way.”

Mr Abbott gave a brief statement to media this morning urging his colleagues not to mirror Labor and throw out a first term prime minister.

“On reflection and taking to my colleagues, I’ve come to the view that the best thing we can do is deal with spill motion as quickly as possible and put it behind us,” Mr Abbott said.

“The only question is do we want to reduce ourselves to the level of the Labor Party in dragging down a first time Prime Minister.”

The news comes as Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would support the Prime Minister in voting against the spill motion for the Liberal leadership, but left open the possibility of taking over should the vote succeed.

Speaking to outside his home this morning, Mr Turnbull said he “supports the PM”, but insisted “the party room must be respected”.

“I believe one of our strengths as a party is we’re a grassroots organisation and we’ve got to respect our members,” he told Sky News outside his home on Sunday.

“I’m in the cabinet, of course I support the Prime Minister, everyone supports the Prime Minister. You don’t have to keep on saying that all the time.”

Ironically, the decision to move the leadership spill meeting to Monday comes after Mr Turnbull praised Mr Abbott’s decision to give party members time to decide.

“Abbott’s also, I think, shown great respect for the party room by saying that the meeting should be on Tuesday, which is the normal party room meeting. Now that’s very significant because again you’ve had people in the press saying it’s going to be brought forward to Monday in a rush. The virtue of having it Tuesday, and I know Tony Abbott very well you know he’s a good friend of mine. And this is why he has said in Townsville it will be on Tuesday because he knows that members coming to Canberra, who will have been getting lots of phone calls and talking to constituents and many of which will be uncertain, will want to have the opportunity to sit down and talk to each other in the nation’s capital, in the course of that Monday leading up to the Tuesday.”

Privately Malcolm Turnbull’s backers are reading Abbott’s surprise party room meeting as a concession by the Prime Minister that he doesn’t have the numbers.

“This shows he’s desperate and can’t win,” one MP said.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was a sensible decision to move it to Monday morning. “Malcolm’s entitled to his view but I think he is wrong on that,” he told Sky News.

“We’ve got to get on with the job of governing. This has been incredibly distracting. You couldn’t imagine the PM going into Question Time with the spill motion hanging over his head.”

Mr Turnbull and Julie Bishop are due to attend a fundraiser brunch this morning.

Mr Turnbull’s comments come as reports emerge of a last-minute ‘peace deal’ plan to install him as Treasurer, with several cabinet ministers urging the Prime Minister to replace him in the role.