‘He’s useless’: Tony Abbott survives Liberal rebels’ preselection coup

Who's ready to party? Anybody?

Who's ready to party? Anybody? Photo: AAP

Tony Abbott has survived an attempted ‘coup’ that would have seen him lose pre-selection in his seat of Warringah, a Sydney northern beaches electorate that in recent years has proved to be much more progressive than its incumbent.

What Mr Abbott seemingly expected to be a cordial rubber-stamping of his pre-selection to fight his 10th election in Warringah, turned out to be a snub – and is said to have ended in “uproar” – with up to 40 per cent of the grass-roots attendees opposing him.

The numbers weren’t disclosed to the room, reportedly igniting cat-calling from the rebels for officials to “release the results” – and cries of “disgrace” and “transparency is dead”.

There were 90 people in attendance, with The Daily Telegraph reporting that more than 30 per cent voted against him, and Fairfax Media was told the number could be as high as 36.

We want to see this guy go

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Abbott seemed “surprised” at the insurrection – he was, after all, running unopposed.

But it must have struck him that he was supposedly among friends – and that the will and the character of his constituency was now more of a mystery to him than was comfortable.

As the Herald reported, one member said on Saturday: “Everybody with any degree of commitment to the party and its long-term future wants to see this guy go, he’s just useless.”

Daily Telegraph reporter Sharri Markson tweeted Mr Abbott’s sour triumph, noting “attempts to roll him failed, but the result was tight and the final vote was not released – which outraged some”.

#BringBackAbbott tweeted that the coup had failed and that “to roll an enduringly popular, high profile MP like Abbott in his seat would’ve been self-destructive stupidity!”

Why the sledge?

Fairfax Media and News Corp reported the uprising as a protest against Mr Abbott’s failure to honour his “no wrecking, no sniping” pledge – and its disastrous consequences.

After all, he stands baldly accused by some fellow backbenchers of agitating, if not engineering, the demise of Malcolm Turnbull – an event from which the government will struggle to recover.

However, The Guardian suggested something more sinister and underhand, referring to a May report about a group of activists who were targeting Mr Abbott’s seat by organising environmentally conscious voters to join the Liberal Party branch in Warringah.

At a meeting of the activist group North Shore Environmental Stewards (NSES) in Seaforth on March 25, one attendee reportedly claimed: “At the meeting I soon realised that the NSES was … seeking to recruit people concerned about the lack of action on climate change to join the Liberal Party in order to block the pre-selection of Tony Abbott to stand in Warringah at the next federal election.”

Mr Abbott has held Warringah, a safe Liberal seat, since 1994.
After the huh-bub died down on Friday night, Mr Abbott reportedly said: “You may have voted against me but I’ll continue to be your member.”

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