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Tony Abbott remains PM after spill motion fails

ABC News logo ABC News 8/02/2015 Emma Griffiths
Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference, in Sydney. © AP Photo/Rick Rycroft Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference, in Sydney.

Tony Abbott has survived a crucial leadership vote, with the Liberal party room deciding not to open up the top positions to a vote.

The party room voted 61 to 39 against spilling the leadership.

Liberal Party chief whip Philip Ruddock said one MP voted informally but the result was "very clear".

"That seems to me to resolve the matter," he said.

But even some of the Prime Minister's most ardent supporters now believe he is mortally wounded and cannot survive the year.

The crucial party room meeting was called to hear a motion to spill the leadership, moved by WA MP Luke Simpkins and seconded by WA colleague Don Randall.

101 MPs were in the room, and one MP — Ross Vasta from the Brisbane-based seat of Bonner — was on paternity leave.

The party room voted by secret ballot, with Mr Abbott saying last night how frontbenchers vote is "entirely" up to them.

MPs gathered knowing the dire results of the first Newspoll of the year, showing the Coalition trailing Labor 43 per cent to 57 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

Malcolm Turnbull is by far the preferred leader against Mr Abbott, according to the poll.

Mr Abbott attended the non-denominational church service this morning, traditionally held on the first sitting day of the year, and urged MPs to put the leadership issue behind them as soon as the vote is done.

"As of 9.30 the important thing is to put the internals behind us and get on with being the government that we were elected to be - to clean up Labor's mess and to deliver for the Australian people the economic security and the national security that they deserve," he told waiting media.

"That means a focus on jobs, families and economic growth."

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