Retired member for Fairfax, Alex Somlyay. Photo Darryn Smith / Sunshine Coast Daily
Retired member for Fairfax, Alex Somlyay. Photo Darryn Smith / Sunshine Coast Daily Darryn Smith

Tony Abbott and the Night of the Long Bottles

IN Opposition Tony Abbott was not the team player he expected everyone else to be when he became Prime Minister and tried to blame his volunteer work with the Rural Fire Brigade as the reason he missed crucial Global Financial Crisis votes in Parliament when he had in fact passed out after drinking several bottles of wine during a boozy dinner with colleagues.

Former Chief Opposition Whip and Member for Fairfax Alex Somlyay has lifted the lid on what he describes as "The Night of the Long Bottles", revealing Mr Abbott and colleagues Kevin Andrews, Peter Costello and Peter Dutton had all ignored a request to leave the Parliamentary dining room and go to the chamber for a speech by their then leader Malcolm Turnbull.

The revelations come amid News Limited reports this week that in 2014 Mr Turnbull confronted Mr Abbott - by then Prime Minister - on an Airforce VIP flight from Sydney to Canberra telling him to resign and calling him "f##king hopeless" and a "disloyal c###nt".

Mr Somlyay said Mr Abbott had been leader of the House under John Howard and knew how important it was to be in Parliament for divisions, but was a serial offender who was always in the gym or elsewhere.

"He was not a team player but when he was leader he expected everyone to be there," he said.

"When Turnbull and (Brendan) Nelson were Opposition leaders it was only coincidental if Abbott attended.

"As a shadow Cabinet Minister he has to support his leader but on occasions he didn't even speak to his own bills.

"The Night of the Long Bottles didn't impress me or Malcolm Turnbull."

As Chief Opposition Whip in 2009 it was Mr Somlyay's responsibility to ensure all Liberal members were present in the House when they were needed.

On the night in question Mr Somlyay said he had paged everyone into the chamber because Mr Turnbull who was Opposition leader was preparing to speak.

"A number didn't come in .... it was past dinner time," he said. "I sent the Whip's clerk to bring people down. Dutton, Costello, Andrews and Abbott were at a table and indicated they would not come down for Malcolm Turnbull's speech but would be down if there was a division.

"I wasn't happy and Malcolm wasn't happy. When a division was called Costello, Andrews and Dutton came in but there was no Abbott.

"I contacted the whip's clerk to get him. As a Shadow Cabinet Minister he was expected to be there."

Two clerks went to Mr Abbott's office, where he was passed out on a couch, but couldn't wake him.

"The House sat all night and there were a number of divisions," Mr Somlyay said.

"At 7am I received a phone call from Tony saying 'sorry mate, I believe I missed a couple of divisions'.

"He told me he had been out all weekend with the volunteer fire brigade and it had caught up with him.

" I told him 'don't bullshit me, I know how many bottles there were'."

Mr Abbott owned up to the incident to Annabel Crabb in an episode of the ABC series The House.