Published: Fri, August 24, 2018
Money | By Ethel Goodwin

Australian PM Turnbull refuses to step down as 13 ministers quit

Australian PM Turnbull refuses to step down as 13 ministers quit

So before we get into the complexities of sorting out exactly what a change in Prime Minister could mean for Australia, let's bring it back to basics and figure out the who's-who in the Australian Survivor Parliament right now.

Mr Turnbull won the party-room vote 48-35 but the narrow margin of the victory made another challenge nearly certain in a country that has earned a reputation for a revolving door of political leaders, with six prime ministers since 2009.

He said Dutton had yet to prove he has majority backing from the Liberal Party - a requirement for him to force another meeting to have a second crack at the top job ahead of national elections due by the middle of next year.

Turnbull came to power in a party-room coup in September 2015 over former premier Tony Abbott, who also survived an internal leadership contest before his eventual defeat.

"There will be no question time today because they don't know who their ministers are. they don't know who their prime minister is", he thundered across the chamber.

In response, Dutton wrote a message Wednesday that begged Australian social media users to look at his photo before sending him messages.

If the Australian Dutton succeeds in his leadership challenge to Turnbull, no Australian prime minister will have served out the full three-year term since John Howard in 2004 to 2007.

Peter Dutton is "not incapable" of sitting as a member of parliament, according legal advice from the solicitor general, but there is still "some risk" the high court might find he has a conflict of interest.

Speaking to reporters afterward, the prime minister said if he received a letter signed by a majority of party members calling for a renewed leadership vote, he would convene with party members on Friday.

"The government may adjourn the parliament, but they can not outrun the weight of failure of this government", he said.

Australian media reported that Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop were considering contesting the leadership as well as Dutton, who has led a conservative rebellion against the more moderate Turnbull.

One Dutton supporter characterised Turnbull's move to seek advice and involve the solicitor general as "desperation, totally inaccurate and not a good reflection on the prime minister".

Opposition Labor Party leader Bill Shorten told Parliament on Thursday it was evidence that "Australia no longer has a functioning government".

On Tuesday Mr Dutton attempted to topple Mr Turnbull, but was unsuccessful. "They have all been thrown out of power by their own parties in the face of poor opinion polling".

Opposition lawmakers reacted with outrage when the government shut down Parliament hours early so that Liberal Party lawmakers could focus on their leadership crisis.

In a surprise vote of ruling lawmakers Tuesday, Turnbull defeated Dutton in such a ballot by 48 votes to 35.

Mr Dutton's case was unlike previous tests of Section 44, he said, and the seven justices of the High Court were clearly divided over the section's interpretation.

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