Dutton Confirms He’s Preparing A Second Challenge As Turnbull’s Ministers Drop Like Flies
Peter Dutton is likely to be PM by Thursday evening.
It’s likely that Peter Dutton will be the Prime Minister by the end of the week after he confirmed he’s preparing to launch a second challenge against Malcolm Turnbull, and 10 government frontbenchers offered their resignations to the PM.
Ministers Resign En Masse
The 10 frontbenchers offered to resign in the the fallout from Peter Dutton’s leadership challenge yesterday.
As you would guess, one of those nine resignations is that of Dutton’s, who resigned as Home Affairs Minister shortly after he fell 13 votes short of becoming Prime Minister yesterday. Turnbull has also accepted a resignation from International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who criticised the PM’s leadership in a strongly worded letter published last night.
It is with great regret that this evening I have tendered my resignation as Minister for International Development and the Pacific. Attached is my resignation letter to the Prime Minister. pic.twitter.com/PmqW3tBYEc
— C Fierravanti-Wells (@Senator_CFW) August 21, 2018
Eight other frontbenchers have asked Turnbull whether they could resign. They include:
- Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar
- Assistant Minister for Digital Transformation, Michael Keenan
- Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steve Ciobo
- Health Minister, Greg Hunt
- Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Angus Taylor
- Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Alan Tudge
- Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Zed Seselja
- Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, James McGrath
The PM’s supporters are this morning saying that Turnbull has refused the other resignation offers in order to maintain unity within his frontbench and party.
Dutton Confirms Second Challenge
But unity seems unlikely after Dutton confirmed on the radio this morning that he’s working the phones and preparing a second challenge.
“Of course I am [working the phones]. I’m speaking to colleagues. I’m not going to beat around the bush with that,” he told 3AW this morning.
Given his clear intent, it’s likely Dutton will launch another challenge by the end of the week, and unlikely that Turnbull will win.
Speaking to multiple media outlets this morning, deputy leader of the Liberal party Julie Bishop spread this message.
“Malcolm is wanting to heal the divisions and unite the party,” she said. “He’s asked [ministers wishing to resign] to stay on in the minister. I believe a number of them are either considering that or have accepted that offer and will back him.”
Turnbull must also make up his mind about an issue greater than his ministry: whether to go to an early election on the back of this week’s leadership turmoil.
If he did so, that could prevent the Liberal party from wanting a leadership change so close to a national poll.
Peter Dutton has resigned from Cabinet and will now sit on the backbench with Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce.
Pass the popcorn.#auspol
— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) August 20, 2018
And even if Turnbull chooses not to go to an election, one might happen anyway. Reports suggests that if Dutton wins the leadership off Turnbull, some crossbenchers and National party members could refuse to support his government.
The LNP has an extremely slim majority — they maintain 76 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives — which means that if enough crossbenchers and Nationals refuse to support Dutton, they could pass a motion of no confidence in the PM and force parliament to an early election to sort it all out.
Dutton’s next shot at the leadership could come as early as Thursday. After Thursday, his next chance to take over the Liberal party would come on 11 September.