INDEPENDENT MP Rob Oakeshott has launched a withering attack on Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne, describing his attempt to canvass crossbench support for a no-confidence motion in the government as "pathetic".
A report in The Australian on Friday revealed Mr Pyne had written to the independents on Thursday night seeking their support for the motion, which if successful could result in an early election on August 3 - the first available date for a simultaneous house and half-Senate poll.
But Mr Oakeshott said he did not receive the letter, which came in the form of an email, until Friday morning after the story had appeared on The Australian's front page.
"If Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne, and his colleagues truly believe this to be the worst government in the history of the world, and their alternative option as the key to world peace, then I invite them to put their case on the floor of the Parliament," Mr Oakeshott said in a statement.
"Grovelling to the crossbench, and giving letters to journalists before they are posted or emailed, and threatening to do something for week upon week upon week, builds the view that this is just the shallow tactics of destabilising, and has nothing to do with the substance of the most serious charge they are making."
The Coalition first threatened the no-confidence motion in March, on the day Prime Minister Julia Gillard saw off another Kevin Rudd leadership challenge, but had appeared to cool on the idea.
Mr Oakeshott said the matter had not been raised with him once during the past week by anyone from the Coalition, nor by the journalist who wrote the story for The Australian.
"If the no confidence motion is because of the 'carbon tax', then I ask Tony Abbott and Chris Pyne why they personally voted in full confidence in Parliament last week for the science of man-made climate change? Why would I now support a Coalition carbon tax that costs taxpayers more and does less?," Mr Oakeshott said.
"If Chris Pyne and Tony Abbott are in any way serious about this tactic of theirs, they will back up their ongoing tactics and vote against the budget bills on Monday. I don't think they will, and I will watch closely before replying to this newly received letter from Mr Pyne."
Other key independent Tony Windsor said he too received the email after the story appeared in print, dismissing it as a "stunt".
Mr Windsor accused the Coalition of being either "frightened or embarrassed" to bring on a no-confidence debate.
"Instead we see a letter released to the media before the target audience (the independents) received the letter - a stunt requesting voting intentions on a debate that hasn't occurred," Mr Windsor said.
The member for New England said he was more than happy for the confidence of the House to be tested and would possibly do so himself.
"It would be a worthwhile exercise as we draw to the conclusion of the Parliament for MPs to express their views on its performance and I would welcome that debate," he said.
A spokesman for Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie said he would not comment until he had replied to Mr Pyne's missive, while a spokesman for Craig Thomson confirmed the former Labor MP would not support the motion.
APN Newsdesk has also placed calls with Queensland MPs Peter Slipper and Bob Katter, although the latter told News Limited earlier on Friday he would his "duty to seriously consider it of course".
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