Just hours after Tony Abbott emerged from Monday morning’s Liberal caucus meeting that voted against a spill on his leadership, he faced the Labor wolves in parliament.
At the year’s first sitting of parliament, opposition leader Bill Shorten went straight for the jugular, summoning Abbott’s own words against him.
“Given that nearly half of his parliamentary colleagues, including two-thirds of his Liberal backbenchers, have today expressed a lack of confidence in the PM, how can the PM claim to have a mandate for this country?” Mr Shorten asked.
The question was as pointed and sharp as the knives brandished against Abbott over the past week.
Back in February 2012, following the first and unsuccessful bid by Kevin Rudd to exact his revenge on Julia Gillard, then opposition leader Abbott sought to keep the blood flowing from the freshly inflicted wounds with almost identical words.
“My question is to the prime minister,” Abbott taunted.
“Given that one-third of her parliamentary colleagues and a quarter of her cabinet colleagues have today expressed their lack of confidence in her, how can she claim to have a mandate to continue as prime minister?”
An expectant prime minister no doubt had prepared his parry.
“I can understand why the leader of the opposition doesn’t want to remember the election,” he retorted.
“It would be something he would rather forget, but this PM and this government did win an election and that is the mandate that we are carrying out.”
Soon after, the opposition moved a motion of no-confidence in Tony Abbott.
“Standing orders need to be suspended today and this motion debated and voted on because all of us in here know that this is not over,” Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek told parliament.
“This was not a convincing victory for the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party today in that party room today.
“It wasn’t a convincing victory because the people of Australia will not accept this man as their Prime Minister.”
As with the spill motion, the parliamentary no confidence motion was defeated, but the wounds remain open.
On Monday morning, Tony Abbott survived the spill motion against his leadership of the Liberal party 61-39, with one abstention due to absence and one rather curious informal vote.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Tony Abbott during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House on February 9, 2015 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)