12 Oct 2015

Abbott on backbench for first time in 20 years

9:35 am on 12 October 2015

When Tony Abbott last sat on the backbench, Paul Keating was prime minister, the Sydney Bulldogs were Australian Rugby League premiers, and Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise was number one on the Australian music charts.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the Australian Memorial at Pukeahu National War Memorial.

Tony Abbott last sat on the backbench in 1995 Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The year was 1995, and this week Mr Abbott is expected to return to a seat on the backbench after he was toppled as prime minister.

Malcolm Turnbull won the Liberal leadership ballot 54 votes to 44 four weeks ago today.

Mr Abbott gave a farewell speech, tendered his resignation to the Governor-General (reportedly by fax), and was not seen in the House of Representatives for the rest of the week.

The Member for Warringah has since moved out of Kirribilli House, returned to his local New South Wales Rural Fire Service brigade, visited a primary school in his electorate, and conducted two lengthy interviews on commercial radio.

Parliament today returns after a three-week break and Mr Abbott is expected to sit on the backbench for the first time since November 1995.

Mr Abbott became a parliamentary secretary after the Howard Government's election in March 1996 and remained in the ministry (or shadow ministry) until he replaced Malcolm Turnbull as opposition leader in 2009.

He will sit next to Andrew Laming in the House of Representatives - a Queensland Liberal MP who called on him to resign before February's failed spill motion.

His Parliamentary office already has his name plaque on the wall at the front (A. Abbott) and is next to the office of former speaker, B. Bishop.

Ridicule over Bronwyn Bishop's AU$5,000 Melbourne to Geelong helicopter ride - and Mr Abbott's refusal to act against her - undermined his leadership and caused colleagues to again question his judgement.

Mrs Bishop then reportedly voted against Mr Abbott in favour of Malcolm Turnbull last month.

Last night, Mr Turnbull held drinks for Government MPs and Senators, ahead of his ministry's first Question Time this afternoon.

Mr Abbott did not attend the gathering.

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