Who are newspapers backing in Dutton v Turnbull leadership spill?

Virginia Carson
August 24, 2018

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reacts during House of Representatives Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Aug 21, 2018.

AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's grip on power slipped further on Wednesday when he was forced to abandon his centrepiece tax policy and a conservative rival in his own party canvassed support for an imminent second challenge.

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.

Sources say Ms Bishop won't command almost enough votes to prevail in an open ballot, with even the majority of her WA colleagues - with the exception of Ian Goodenough, Melissa Price, Linda Reynolds and Nola Marino - set to vote against her. WA MPs Steve Irons and Ben Morton are understood to be backing Scott Morrison, with the rest set to fall in behind Mr Dutton.

Turnbull, whose Liberal Party is the senior partner in the coalition government, had won a party-room vote by 48 to 35 on Tuesday, but the unconvincing victory had left him vulnerable to another challenge.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the ministers had told Turnbull it was "in the best interests of the Liberal Party to help manage an orderly transition to a new leader".

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This sparked a series of tweets, now shared and liked thousands of times, and made him a topic of discussion in Australian politics - with many Twitter users imploring him to come over and take over the prime minister's office himself.

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

Turnbull, who has dropped in opinion polls recently, also said that he would not stand in another leadership contest.

Turnbull said he asked Australia's most senior legal officer to provide advice on Dutton's eligibility.

On Thursday, the prime minister lost the support of three key backers - a move seen by commentators as a blow to his chances of remaining leader.

If that meeting calls for a leadership ballot, he will quit Parliament.

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Whatever happens next - whether we have a Prime Minister Turnbull, Dutton, Morrison or Bishop - we can be certain it will not be sweetness and light among those who find themselves at the "out-group" when the dust begins to settle.

Karen Middleton talks to TRT World from Canberra, Australia about what led to Malcolm Turnbull losing his support base.

Professor Williams said the issue could only be definitely settled by the High Court.

The opposition narrowly lost a vote in Parliament that would have sent Dutton to court to determine whether he is eligible to be a prime minister.

He is yet to publicly respond to the latest threat to his rule, although broadcaster ABC reported that he turned down the demand for another party meeting during the phone call.

Labor has already released conflicting advice and leading constitutional lawyers have described the case as a grey area.

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