Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull Wins Leadership Challenge

Theresa Obrien
August 24, 2018

Turnbull, trying to regain the initiative as speculation swirled over his future, began a meeting of Liberal parliamentarians on Tuesday by declaring the leadership of the party, and therefore the government, open to be contested.

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"This will certainly send shockwaves through Parliament House".

Liberal members see Turnbull as "the best Labor leader the Liberals ever had", criticizing his push for same-sex marriage, his support for an Australian republic, and other causes favored by Labor and other left-wing parties. It is widely known that Mr Dutton and Ms Bishop do not get on.

A social liberal and multi-millionaire former merchant banker, Turnbull rode an early wave of popular support but his standing has diminished significantly.

After the vote, Dutton resigned as Home Affairs Minister, moving to the backbench. However, Mr Turnbull has consistently rated higher than Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister. So far only Dutton has quit the front bench, but the size of the protest vote indicates others will follow.

Questions were being raised about the fate of Mr Morrison too. "There's a crescendo building up", he said.

Sky News political editor David Speers said the situation was a "humiliation" for Mr Turnbull.

Alright, hang on, you have raised Peter Dutton. He's a member of our team.

"Unity is critical. We can not allow, as I said in the party room today, our internal issues to undermine our work, to create a risk, a real risk, that Bill Shorten will be the prime minister".

But Mr Shorten thumped Mr Dutton 59 per cent to 36.5 per cent when voters were given the chance to pick between them. "This was a trial run and I expect them (Dutton and supporters) to do it again in September", he told AFP, adding that it was all about "revenge and ego". "There will be swings and roundabouts in any sort of change that happens".

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It is understood that Mr Dutton, Queensland's senior Conservative leader, originally wasn't planning to attend the dinner or Cabinet talks but changed his mind.

Turnbull, however, moved to quell the reports.

But the real action may have been happening on the phones.

"It is now nearly inevitable, the question is timing", one senior minister told the paper.

The NEG had been met with resistance by a group of conservative MPs led by former prime minister Tony Abbott.

Attorney-General Christian Porter, who is facing the fight of his political life to retain the marginal WA seat of Pearce, was among the ministers sticking by the Prime Minister.

Today Defence Minsiter Chris Pyne told ABC radio Mr Turnbull's announcements on energy policy would leave his colleagues "extremely impressed with the direction the government is taking".

He headed off a leadership challenge from Minster of Home Affairs Peter Dutton by a margin of 48 votes to 35 in the surprise vote. "Peter Dutton is considering resigning from cabinet and launching a leadership bid", Channel 9's political editor Chris Ulhmann told Today this morning. "I worked very closely with Malcolm Turnbull to make sure that we could achieve that".

'They want us to know that we should be concentrating on the things that are important to them'.

Ulhmann said the people he had spoken to indicated they would make a move "sooner rather than later".

Earlier, Mr Turnbull mounted a counter argument and reminded fellow Liberals that voters would not be impressed by leadership shenanigans. "Just seven of his Liberal Party colleagues would need to switch to end what is now an unviable leadership internally and by virtue of that, a dishonest product to be put before the electoral market place", said Fairfax writer Mark Kenny.

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