Malcolm Turnbull: Australia PM faces second leadership challenge

Malcolm Turnbull: Australia PM faces second leadership challenge

Besieged Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has threatened to quit politics if he loses the Liberal party leadership and called for a party meeting tomorrow over the issue.

The Solicitor-General was dragged into the internal brawl yesterday when Mr Turnbull asked him to rule on whether Mr Dutton has breached Section 44 of the Constitution, banning MPs benefiting from government payments.

"What began as a minority has, by a process of intimidation, persuaded people that the only way to stop the insurgency is to give in to it".

"This is a very, very significant point", Mr Turnbull said, having battled through the MP citizenship saga.

While this predictable political push for an early election appears unlikely to succeed, the expected demise of the Turnbull government is likely to see another major ministerial reshuffle, with supporters of the successful candidates likely to win key cabinet portfolios.

Mr Turnbull only won Tuesday's contest by seven votes.

The prime minister had hoped the first ballot, called by himself, would end speculation his government had lost faith in him after poor opinion polling and a by-election defeat in Queensland.

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After a week of bitter infighting, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop prepared to oppose Dutton at a ballot at noon on Friday (2pm NZT) to decide Australia's next prime minister - the seventh change of leader in a decade.

Mr Dutton could be referred to the High Court through a vote of the House of Representatives, where the Turnbull government still maintains a one-seat majority.

"I'm speaking to colleagues", Dutton told 3AW Radio.

"When I have five cabinet colleagues telling me that they supported Malcolm on Tuesday. but they have changed their position, that is not something that I can ignore".

But less than 24 hours after their "just smile and wave boys, just smile and wave" press conference, three of Turnbull's biggest allies Mathias Cormann, the government leader in the Senate, communications minister and deputy government Senate leader Mitch Fifield, and jobs minister Michaelia Cash fronted the media to confirm they had turned their backs on Turnbull.

"Some of the behaviour is behaviour that I simply do not recognise and I think has no place in my party", she said.

Whoever emerges as Australia's 30th prime minister faces a near-impossible job of leading the Coalition to victory at the election.

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The next election is due by May.

Turnbull accepted the resignations of former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, according to the BBC.

"Peter Dutton made it clear in April that he wanted to be prime minister", replied Bishop.

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

Wants to receive solicitor general advice on Dutton's eligibility to sit.

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

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

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Australia has had years of political instability since Prime Minister John Howard lost power in 2007 after more than 11 years in office.

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