UPDATED: Malcolm Turnbull will call a party room meeting tomorrow with Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison vying for the Prime Minister's position.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on August 23, 2018

UPDATE 1:29PM AEST: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed he will not contest a leadership spill. He will also exit parliament if the spill goes ahead. “I made it very clear that I believe former Prime Ministers are best out of the Parliament,” he said.

Turnbull also told reporters he had never given in to bullies and would not start now. He said there was a concerted effort by some within the Liberal party to move it to the right.

UPDATE: 12:09 AEST: It has been confirmed that Treasurer Scott Morrison will be a candidate in the upcoming leadership spill. Morrison has also been acting as Minister for Home Affairs since the other challenger, Peter Dutton, resigned from his ministry.

Parliament has now been adjourned while the government resolves the question of leadership.

Manager of Opposition Business Tony Burke tore into the government over its messy power struggles.

“What is happening right now is the government have decided this place has fallen apart so completely that they are dissolving the parliament for the day entirely,” he said in parliament.

UPDATE 10:25am AEST: Dutton has survived a parliamentary vote to refer his eligibility to sit in parliament to the High Court of Australia.

The government won the vote 69-68 after Labor joined with cross-benchers to support a motion to refer him.

UPDATE: A number of frontbenchers who support Dutton, including Treasurer Mathias Cormann, have tendered their resignations.

Cormann, who was Finance Minister, held a press conference alongside Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash where all three called on Turnbull to hold another leadership vote. All three resigned from their ministries.

It is believed that numerous Liberal MPs support Dutton but are reluctant to put their name to the petition.

Newest push for Dutton to become leader

The latest uprising against Turnbull comes just two days after a previous leadership spill saw sitting Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hold on to his job in a 48-35 result.

Dutton confirmed on Twitter that he had formally asked Turnbull to convene another party room meeting so he could challenge for the leadership of the party.

“A few minutes ago I spoke with Malcolm Turnbull to advise him I believed the majority of the party room no longer supported his leadership,” he wrote.

Turnbull’s supporters remain confident they still have the numbers for the incumbent Prime Minister to remain in power.

Dutton’s team have been offering ministries to members of parliament who switch their allegiance from Turnbull. Victorian Liberal Sarah Henderson told the ABC she couldn’t accept the offer. “Just imagine if that was accepted and there was a change of leadership — to be rewarded for an act of treachery, I think is a terrible thing,” she said.

A recent SMS poll conducted by News Limited showed voters preferred both Labor leader Bill Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull to Dutton. Despite his leadership being in tatters, Turnbull was still preferred to Dutton.

Is Peter Dutton eligible to sit in parliament?

The ongoing tussle over the leadership has been coloured by revelations that even if Peter Dutton claims victory at some stage, as is expected, there may be a serious cloud over his eligibility to sit in parliament.

It has recently been revealed that Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfuss wrote to the Attorney-General with legal advice suggesting Dutton may be ineligible for parliament since he benefitted financially from the Commonwealth subsidies to a childcare centre owned through his family trust. The legal advice was prepared by Bret Walker SC, one of the country’s most high-profile barristers.

Under s.44(5) of the Australian Constitution, a person is not eligible to sit in parliament if they receive any pecuniary interest from the Commonwealth either directly or indirectly other than their salary as a member of parliament.

Dutton obtained his own legal advice on the issue least year and his counsel concluded he was eligibile to sit in parliament. Attorney-General Christian Porter released a statement confirming he has asked the Government’s most senior lawyer, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC, to provide for advice on the issue.

“Given that today the subject of a member’s eligibility was raised in Question Time and in media reports, I determined to seek advice from the Solicitor-General on the issues raised,” Porter said in a statement.

Dutton’s case would have to be referred to the High Court of Australia by a majority of members of parliament for it to rule on his eligibility. Several members of parliament have been forced to resign this year over eligibility issues.

Rudd on Dutton as a leader

Meanwhile, former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has questioned whether Dutton is fit to lead the nation given that he boycotted the apology to the stolen generations in 2007.

“Dutton was an MP for 7 years and was 38 when he boycotted the apology to first Australians,” Rudd wrote on Twitter. “A grown man, experienced politician who knew what he was doing – sending a dog-whistle to racist sentiment. A question of character.For this reason alone, he should never be Prime Minister.”