Who are newspapers backing in Dutton v Turnbull leadership spill?

Dwayne Harmon
August 24, 2018

Bill Shorten has long trailed Mr Turnbull in popularity, even as Labor soared in the polls, but would be the nation's preferred prime minister if Mr Dutton were Liberal leader, according to a Roy Morgan poll.

Furious opposition lawmakers argued against the motion to adjourn the House of Representatives until September 10.

Turnbull's tenuous grip on power was under intense pressure Thursday with the man who wants his job launching a second leadership challenge in a week and senior ministers defecting.

Dutton and his supporters, including former prime minister Tony Abbott who once described climate change as "absolute crap", argue that keeping power prices down was more important than meeting Canberra's commitment to slash carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2030. The ballot to choose a prime minister is secret, so lawmakers don't have to declare which candidate they voted for.

Dutton has released legal advice that his family's ownership of two child-care centers that received federal funding does not breach a constitutional ban on lawmakers having a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the public service.

Instead, Dutton is expected to face Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to decide who will be Australia's sixth prime minister in the last decade.

Mr Dutton relied on legal advice from December 2017 to say he was eligible but his lawyer Guy Reynolds has since updated that to include recent law changes.

Such a pending court case could scare lawmakers away from supporting Dutton in a leadership ballot.

Meanwhile, at least four cabinet ministers have offered their resignation as Liberal MPs position themselves in the ongoing struggle for control of the party.

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The former home affairs minister secured support from Liberal MPs to demand another vote on the leadership, in a sign of his confidence in securing more votes to win a ballot among Liberal MPs on Thursday.

Mr Dutton launched an unsuccessful leadership challenge on Tuesday, losing by a slim margin of 13 votes.

Malcolm Turnbull still has a solid lead over Mr Shorten (54 to 46) while it was neck and neck with Scott Morrison, with Mr Shorten ahead by the narrowest margin (50.5 to 49.5).

Deputy leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop has now reportedly also thrown her hat into the ring to contest the party leadership, joining Peter Dutton and (probably) Scott Morrison as would-be Prime Ministers.

Turnbull would then become the fourth prime minister to be dumped by his or her own party before serving a full three-year term in an extraordinary era of political instability that began in 2010.

Cormann voted for the more moderate Turnbull in Tuesday's internal vote but is also a close friend of Dutton.

Were she to win, she would become Australia's second female prime minister and the first from Western Australia since 1945.

When shown an old image of her sitting next to Turnbull, Gillard was asked to give her first, quick response and she said: "Maybe when I run into him somewhere, we will be assuming that body posture again".

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