Published: Fri, August 24, 2018
Finance | By Jaime Brady

Malcolm Turnbull: Australia PM's leadership on a knife edge

Malcolm Turnbull: Australia PM's leadership on a knife edge

"I can not underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of parliament", he told reporters in Canberra.

Main image: Former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton announces he has the numbers to challenge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday.

Tired of his pugnacious predecessor, 70 per cent of Australians said that Mr Turnbull was their preference for prime minister and gave him a swift election-winning lead over Labor.

Turnbull defeated Dutton 48-35 in a surprise vote on Tuesday.

"As such, I asked him to convene a meeting of the Liberal Party at which I would challenge for the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party".

If Mr Turnbull is ousted, he would become the fourth leader in just a decade to have suffered a party coup within their first term.

Senior minister Peter Dutton was the only candidate nominated. It was a major blow to Turnbull's chances of staying in office.

When Malcolm Turnbull knifed Tony Abbott and slid into the prime minister's office three years ago, the former journalist, barrister and silky merchant banker rode a heady wave of support.

The solicitor-general said it was "impossible to state the position with certainty" without more detailed facts about Mr Dutton's financial stake in two childcare centres.

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That petition has yet to be presented, but on Friday even some Turnbull supporters indicated they would sign the petition to try to force a resolution of the matter, which they said was harming the Liberal Party and the government.

On Thursday the House of Representatives voted 69 votes to 68 not to refer Dutton to the high court, and no further attempt at a referral could occur before 10 September when parliament resumes.

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There is not a shred of evidence on the public record that a Dutton prime ministership would make the slightest difference to the slide in public opinion being suffered by the Coalition in Queensland, as reflected in the LNP's ghastly result in the Longman byelection.

In addition to Dutton, media reports said other lawmakers were considering running for Turnbull's job, including Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

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

In a frantic Thursday morning, Australia's opposition parties lost a parliament vote that would have forced a court to determine whether Dutton is eligible for the premiership.

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.

"On political tactics, no, I wouldn't presume to know enough about the internal things in the Liberal Party to give anybody any advice about what to do next". Some constitutional lawyers say there are areas of doubt.

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