“SPIIILLL!!”, everyone has been shouting since Friday: just in case you somehow dodged every media outlet ever, the LNP is in dire straits, and a political mess has now culminated in what could be a leadership spill tomorrow in the Liberal party room at 9 AM.
The logistics and the expected timeline of the so-called Spill, however, have become murky over the ensuing frenzy regarding the Game of Tones – to get your body ready for the biggest Auspol day the nation has seen in a long time, let’s break this whole thing down.
Who got the ball rolling on the Spill?
On Friday, WA MP Luke Simpkins officially kicked things off and thankfully eased the sheer speculation over the spill by sending a party-wide email: he announced he would motion for a leadership spill to take place. In the email, Simpkins cited Abbott’s knighting of Prince Philip as the PM’s last straw. Another WA MP, Don Randall, provided support for Simpkins call on Friday, saying he would ‘second’ the motion at a Liberal Party meeting, meaning a vote on the motion can go ahead.
So a leadership vote will definitely happen?
Not necessarily. Despite trolls insisting that Abbott and Bishop’s positions are vacant as far as the Liberal party room should be concerned, they aren’t. In order to conduct a caucus ballot and declare the LNP leadership open, the party room will have to first vote on passing Simpkins’ motion for a spill. If the vote does not receive a simple majority, then game over, we all go home, anticlimactic ending, etc.
But it COULD happen, right?
Definitely. If the motion does get green-lit, then a leadership vote will take place: at that point, anyone in the room can run for the position.
“Abbott backers” confident of winning with margin of at least 60-40. “Turnbull backers” say could be as tight as 50-50. #pmagenda
— David Speers (@David_Speers) February 8, 2015
How many votes are needed?
A simple majority is needed for the motion to pass. There are 102 members, so 52 votes is what it will take.
How will the whole thing be run?
As the ABC points out, the LNP does not have strict rules regarding a Spill situation – unlike the Labor party. How it plays out tomorrow morning isn’t certain, but it will probably look something like this: speakers “for” and “against” the motion will speak—probably under a time limit—and debate will ensue, before a vote is held. Journos would ~literally~ die to be allowed in.
If the motion does receive the go-ahead, the PM position will be declared vacant, and anyone in the party room can put their hand up to be a candidate. From there, the caucus will vote: a simple majority for any candidate is needed for the position of Prime Minister, conducted via a secret ballot. If there are more than two candidates, then rounds of votes will be held, weeding out the least-supported candidate each time.
Who’s likely to run, should a spill occur?
Old mate Tone will obviously fight for his own job. While there will be 102 members in the room, there are only a few possibilities for PM.
Julie Bishop, Right?
Foreign minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop is an obvious contender for the leadership, if it were to spill. However, Bishop has remained staunchly loyal in statements since Friday and since the leadership woes began. Yesterday, Bishop appeared alongside Abbott saying: “My role as deputy is to support the leader, not to change the leader, and I don’t support the spill motion.” So that’s pretty clear. Not out of the question, but pretty clear.
And what about Malcolm Turnbull?
Before we get to that, can we please all have a think about this classic Good Weekend cover from 1991, unearthed from Reddit today, featuring MT?
Now that situation is out of the way: Malcolm Turnbull is probably the most likely candidate for contending the leadership, simply by virtue of not being up-front in media statements since Friday. Turnbull has not stated that he will vote against the motion – as far as this issue is concerned, that’s pretty much as good as saying he’ll vote ‘for’ it. Furthering that, Turnbull made a sly comment this morning, claiming that Abbott’s move of the leadership from Tuesday to Monday was a “captain’s call”. That comment shouldn’t be taken lightly: Abbott announced last week that he would stop the “captain’s picks”.
Sick burn indeed, Malcolm.
How’s Joe Hockey taking it?
Señor cigar has been playing it cool. Statements made today from Hockey were confident: the Treasurer is not convinced the spill will happen, or if it does, he’s convinced Abbott will retain leadership. He claimed that all the frontbenchers are loyal to Abbott – if they weren’t they should have already resigned: “If you do not support the prime minister you cannot serve in his or her cabinet,” Hockey said today.
What have Liberal spills looked like in the past?
Spills in the liberal party have been overwhelmingly successful – as in, the leader has been voted out through a caucus vote. In 1994, LNP leader Alexander Downer beat John Hewson in a leadership vote; in 2008, LNP leader Brendan Nelson lost to Malcolm Turnbull, and a year later, Turnbull lost to Tony Abbott. However, those spills all occurred when the LNP leader was only the leader of the opposition, not Prime Minister. The last LNP spill concerning a Prime Minister was in 1981, with PM Malcolm Fraser beating Andrew Peacock‘s leadership challenge. With the Liberal party poking so much fun at the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, it’s perhaps unlikely a change-up of PM will go ahead, even if it’s just to save face and keep their record of PM challenges crystal clear.
How will Labor react if the leadership is challenged, and Tony Abbott loses?
Death by schadenfreude.
Can I have a GIF that accurately conveys the sentiment that it is, by all intents and purposes, on?
Buckle up for tomorrow, everyone.
Lead images by Stefan Postles and Greg Wood via Getty images.