Malcolm Turnbull has lashed out at the ‘bullies’ and dark forces that tore down his leadership, while requiring his challenger Peter Dutton to prove he is fit to sit in Parliament before he is willing to step down.
A calm but defiant Prime Minister said he would not contest a ballot for the leadership at midday tomorrow if the majority of the party room put their names to a petition for the second spill in a week.
Mr Turnbull also wanted to see advice from the solicitor-general that Peter Dutton was eligible to stay in Parliament amid concerns over his constitutional status.
‘I cannot 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 said in Canberra on Thursday.
If the petition is carried as expected, Mr Turnbull will not only step aside as Prime Minister but quit Parliament entirely, prompting a crucial by-election in his Sydney seat of Wentworth.
Malcolm Turnbull will quit as Prime Minister if a partyroom meeting on Friday passes a spill motion on his leadership
Appearing calm and relaxed, Mr Turnbull said Liberal MPs first need to see the advice from the solicitor-general on the eligibility of challenger Peter Dutton to sit in the parliament
Mr Turnbull will retire from parliament if the spill motion goes ahead, but declined to endorse a successor or refer to Scott Morrison’s bid for the leadership (pictured are Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison)
The House of Representatives has been adjourned by the government amid the battle over the Liberal leadership, and will return on September 10
Mr Turnbull acknowledged politics was a tough business but slammed right-wing bullies within and outside Parliament who undermined his leadership.
‘I think what we’re witnessing, what we have witnessed at the moment is a very deliberate effort to pull the Liberal Party further to the right. And that’s been stated by the number of people who have been involved in this,’ he said.
The comment has been widely interpreted as an attack on former prime minister Tony Abbott and his acolytes, as well as elements of the Murdoch-controlled Newscorp press.
‘Australians will be rightly appalled by what they’re witnessing in their nation’s parliament today and in the course of this week,’ Mr Turnbull said in Canberra on Thursday.
The government’s legal advice is expected to be ready early Friday.
Mr Turnbull said the public would be ‘crying out for an election’ once the dust settled.
He said a ‘form of madness’ had taken over those agitating for a leadership change.
Mr Turnbull will retire from parliament if the spill motion goes ahead, but declined to endorse a successor amid reports Treasurer Scott Morrison will also seek the leadership in the event of a ballot.
The Prime Minister blamed ‘bullies’ and an ‘insurgency’ for the crisis engulfing the government, and slammed his former Home Affairs Minister.
‘What began as a minority has by a process of intimidation, you know, persuaded people that the only way to stop the insurgency is to give into it,’ he said.
The resignation of three senior ministers effectively sounds the death knell for Mr Turnbull’s leadership after days of chaos in Canberra
HOW MALCOLM TURNBULL’S LEADERSHIP UNRAVELLED
THURSDAY AUGUST 16
* Peter Dutton says he will quit cabinet if he gets to a point where he can’t agree with government policy.
* Malcolm Turnbull weighs up significant changes to the National Energy Guarantee amid speculation about his leadership, including dumping the legislated emissions target.
* Dutton tweets his support for the prime minister and the policies of the government.
* Cabinet meets at parliament to discuss changes to energy policy.
* A Fairfax/Ipsos poll shows the coalition’s primary vote has dropped from 39 to 33 in a month and Labor leads the coalition 55-45 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.
* The PM drops the 26 per cent emissions cut target from NEG legislation.
* Turnbull says Dutton has given ‘absolute support’ to him.
* Turnbull calls a spill and is challenged by Dutton, who loses 48-35.
* Dutton resigns from cabinet.
* A slew of ministers offer resignations but Turnbull only accepts Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and Dutton.
* Dutton refuses to rule out a second challenge, launching a media campaign calling for a royal commission into fuel and energy prices and the scrapping of the GST from electricity prices.
* Turnbull, flanked by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, dumps corporate tax cuts after the plan was voted down in the Senate.
* Turnbull also ditches plans to axe an energy supplement paid to welfare recipients.
* Morrison hugs Turnbull and says he’s ambitious for his leader, while also slapping down Dutton’s GST idea.
* Cormann says he supports the prime minister.
* A petition to force a Liberal partyroom meeting is circulated.
* Cormann, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield and Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash visit Turnbull to tell him he no longer has the support of the majority of the party room.
* Turnbull accepts the resignation of his assistant minister James McGrath.
* Junior minister Zed Seselja and Michael Sukkar resign from the frontbench.
* Cormann, Fifield and Cash again visit the prime minister to tell him he’s lost support. They urge him to call a partyroom meeting.
* Dutton demands a second leadership spill after telling Turnbull he has the support to become PM.
* Cormann, Fifield and Cash pull their support for Turnbull and resign from cabinet.
* Turnbull says Liberal MPs need to see the advice from the solicitor-general on the eligibility of Dutton after reports he could be in breach of the constitution over his stake in two childcare centres.
* If the advice gives Dutton the all clear, Turnbull will hold a partyroom meeting. He will then move a spill motion and quit parliament if it succeeds.
‘Now, I do not believe in that. I have never done that. I have never given into bullies but you can imagine the pressure it’s put people under.’
Mr Turnbull’s announcement came after he was deserted by his most loyal lieutenants, who tendered their resignations and urged him to step aside for the good of the country.
Scott Morrison is preparing to run in a leadership ballot against Mr Dutton, with Greg Hunt replacing him as treasurer. The former Health Minister has also been flagged as a possible deputy leader under Mr Dutton.
A member of Mr Morrison’s camp claimed the Prime Minister intends to step aside to allow a two-way contest, but Mr Turnbull is yet to resign.
Mr Morrison has emerged as a potential consensus candidate, a former immigration minister like Mr Dutton who could appeal to both moderate and conservative Liberal MPs alike.
Scott Morrison (pictured, right) will run against Mr Dutton, with Greg Hunt replacing him as treasurer
TURNBULL MINISTERS WHO HAVE RESIGNED AND OFFERED TO QUIT
TURNBULL MINISTERS WHO HAVE RESIGNED:
* Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull urged his challenger to stay on, but ultimately accepted his resignation.
* Finance Minister and conservative heavyweight Mathias Cormann. Tendered resignation on Thursday morning, effectively ending Mr Turnbull’s prime ministership.
* Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash. Joins Senator Cormann in announcing the withdrawal of her support for Mr Turnbull and resigning from the frontbench.
* Communications Minister Mitch Fifield. Announced his resignation on Thursday beside senators Cormann and Cash.
* Health Minister Greg Hunt. Announces he tendered resignation with prime minister on Thursday morning amid speculation he will run as Dutton’s deputy in a leadership spill.
* Human Services Minister Michael Keenan. Offered resignation, but later issued statement of support for the prime minister. Resigns with a “heavy heart” on Thursday.
* Trade Minister Steve Ciobo. Offered resignation, which was not accepted. Later issued a call for unity to defeat Labor at the next election. Resignation confirmed on Thursday.
* Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge. Resigns on Thursday saying there is no longer support for Turnbull.
* Cybersecurity Minister Angus Taylor. Quits citing concerns about the direction of the government on Thursday.
* International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Believes the party has moved too far away from conservative voters. Mr Turnbull accepted her resignation.
* Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath. Resignation initially not accepted by Mr Turnbull. But the senator insisted and he stepped down on Wednesday.
* Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar. Tendered resignation on Tuesday but not accepted. Resignation confirmed on Thursday.
* Assistant Science, Jobs and Innovation Minister Zed Seselja. Offered on Tuesday but not accepted. Resignation confirmed on Thursday.
MINISTERS WHO OFFERED TO QUIT:
* Human Services Minister Michael Keenan. Offered resignation, but later issued statement of support for the prime minister.
* Trade Minister Steve Ciobo. Offered resignation, which was not accepted. Later issued a call for unity to defeat Labor at the next election.
* Health Minister Greg Hunt. Reportedly would have run for deputy had Mr Dutton won the challenge. His resignation was not accepted.
* Cybersecurity Minister Angus Taylor. Resignation not accepted.
* Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge. Resignation not accepted.
Mr Dutton’s supporters believe the Treasurer has been planning his own shot at the leadership since Monday, when he was tipped off about growing support for the former Home Affairs Minister.
In order to put himself in prime position for the top job, Mr Morrison then urged the Prime Minister to call Tuesday’s spill, a senior Liberal MP told The Australian.
The House of Representatives has been adjourned by the government amid the battle over the Liberal leadership, and will return on September 10.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE LIBERAL LEADERSHIP?
* Liberal partyroom meeting is needed to decide on future leadership.
* The winner of the Liberal partyroom ballot will become parliamentary party leader.
* Malcolm Turnbull would then tender his resignation to the Governor-General.
* The Liberal leader would be recommended to the Governor-General to become Australia’s 30th prime minister.
* In parliament, Labor could move a ‘no confidence’ motion to test the government’s majority. The Liberal-National coalition has a one-seat majority. But some Nationals MPs have pledged to sit on crossbench if the prime minister changes.
* The government already has budget ‘supply’ until July 2019.
* The Governor-General would issue the instrument of appointment and oath of office to the new prime minister, and most likely swear in a handful of key cabinet ministers including Treasurer.
The government won the vote to adjourn Parliament early by 70 votes to 68, meaning there will be no Question Time this afternoon. The Senate will not be adjourned.
In a devastating blow to Mr Turnbull, senior ministers Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield, who voted for the prime minister in the first spill on Tuesday, announced they had withdrawn their backing.
The resignations of Health Minister Greg Hunt, Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge and Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo and Justice Minister Michael Keenan followed within hours.
The flurry of Cabinet departures effectively sounds the death knell for Mr Turnbull’s leadership after days of chaos in Canberra.
A total of 13 Cabinet ministers have now tendered their resignations and are calling on the Prime Minister to hold a leadership ballot in the interests of an orderly transition.
‘It’s with great sadness and a heavy heart that we went to see the prime minister yesterday afternoon to advise him that in our judgment he no longer enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the Liberal Party party room,’ Mr Cormann told reporters at Parliament House.
‘And that it was in the best interests of the Liberal Party to help manage an orderly transition to a new leader.’
Peter Dutton demanded a new leadership spill on Thursday morning after telling Mr Turnbull he no longer had majority support.
A new ballot is likely to be held today at which point a new leader of the Liberal Party and therefore Prime Minister will be elected.
Key Cabinet ministers Mathias Cormann (pictured, right), Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash (pictured, left) tendered their resignations and called on the Prime Minister to hold a leadership ballot
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is desperately clinging to power despite his most loyal lieutenants tendering their resignations
‘I became aware yesterday that it was very clear that the Prime Minister no longer, in my opinion, had the confidence of the party room,’ Ms Cash said.
Mr Cormann said the Prime Minister had declined his resignation from the ministry on Wednesday.
‘We are very conscious of the seriousness of the decision that we’ve made,’ he said.
‘In my view it would be in the interests of the Liberal Party and in the interests of the country for a partyroom meeting to be called swiftly for the issue of the leadership of the Liberal Party to be resolved.’
The Finance Minister said it was a difficult thing for him to do and praised Mr Turnbull.
‘I believe that Malcolm Turnbull has been and is a great prime minister. I believe that he will go down in history as having secured amazing achievements for Australia,’ he said.
Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash (pictured, left) Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (pictured, centre) and Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield (pictured, right) depart a press conference after announcing their support for former Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton
Peter Dutton released the legal advice which he says makes clear he is eligible to sit in parliament
Mr Dutton lost a challenge 48 votes to 35 on Tuesday, but now believes he has the numbers required to win a second spill.
‘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,’ Mr Dutton tweeted on Thursday.
‘Accordingly, I asked him to convene a party room meeting at which I would challenge for the leadership of the Parliamentary Liberal Party.’
The ex-Home Affairs Minister then recapped his statement while addressing reporters at Parliament House on Thursday morning.
Mr Turnbull has so far declined the request to hold the meeting.
The ex-Home Affairs Minister confirmed he had demanded a second spill while addressing reporters at Parliament House on Thursday morning
‘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,’ Mr Dutton tweeted on Thursday
Mr Dutton also released legal advice which he said makes clear he is eligible to sit in parliament after questions were raised over his family’s business interests in two childcare centres.
Questions have been raised if Mr Dutton could be in breach of section 44 of the constitution, which bans from parliament anyone who has ‘any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the Commonwealth’.
Mr Dutton’s confirmation of a second leadership challenge follows the formal resignations of two more federal government ministers in support of his bid.
Assistant ministers Michael Sukkar and Zed Seselja refused the Prime Minister’s offer to stay in their positions, throwing their weight behind Mr Dutton ahead of a second leadership challenge.
The pair have followed Mr Dutton, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and James McGrath from the front bench.
‘Accordingly, I asked him [Mr Turnbull – pictured] to convene a party room meeting at which I would challenge for the leadership of the Parliamentary Liberal Party,’ Mr Dutton said
Peter Dutton (pictured) said on Thursday he believed Mr Turnbull had lost majority support
Mr Dutton also released legal advice which he said makes clear he is eligible to sit in parliament
Wednesday evening was marked by planted rumours of betrayal, an ominous letter circling among MPs and accusations of aggressive tactics.
Female MPs reportedly felt intimidated by members of Mr Dutton’s camp pressuring them to sign a letter forcing a partyroom meeting.
‘They’ve been running the halls and bursting into offices and attempting to intimidate people to sign their letter of support,’ a senior Turnbull government figure told The Daily Telegraph.
The letter read: ‘Dear Prime Minister, we, the undersigned, request that you call a meeting of the Joint House Parliamentary Liberal Party, as soon as practicable, for the purpose of determining the leadership of the Party.’
The same government figure accused Mr Dutton’s supporters of spreading false rumours about resignations of key backers of Mr Turnbull.
Peter Dutton is demanding a new leadership spill after telling the Prime Minister he has majority support
During the evening Mr Turnbull met with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop (pictured), Treasurer Scott Morrison and Mr Cormann for crisis talks
‘We’ve got to see this off. They are just hell bent on blowing the joint up and we can’t bow to that. We have to fight it, he said.
‘We’re trying to get a sensible outcome so that MPs do not make decisions in a panic.’
During the evening Mr Turnbull met with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Mr Cormann for crisis talks.
Christopher Pyne, Craig Laundy, Christian Porter and government whip Nola Merino were also in attendance.
The moderate Liberal Party MPs discussed possible next steps should Mr Turnbull lose in a spill or decide to step down.
The rumours of Mr Cormann’s defection reportedly left the Finance Minister (pictured, left) furious
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash were among those rumoured to have resigned and withdrawn support from Malcolm Turnbull (Michaelia Cash pictured)
Either of those scenarios could see one or both of Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison put their hands up for the leadership, although if both ran they would likely split the moderate and centre-right vote, with conservatives backing Mr Dutton.
PETER DUTTON’S POLICY PRIORITIES
* Cut the annual permanent migration intake.
* Push migrants towards Western Australia, South Australia and regional areas to reduce congestion in major cities.
* Lower power prices by removing the GST on electricity bills.
* Establish a royal commission into the fuel and energy sectors.
* Abandon corporate tax cuts and deliver more relief to wage earners and small businesses instead.
* Deliver more water to drought-stricken farmers.
Both Ms Bishop and Mr Morrison confirmed they would not stand challenge Mr Turnbull themselves.
Mr Morrison has emerged as a contender who could unite the warring factions and steal conservative votes away from Mr Dutton, unlike Ms Bishop who is seen as too moderate by those on the right.
The Treasurer backed Tony Abbott during the 2015 leadership spill, and voted against same-sex marriage.
Mr Turnbull narrowly survived a leadership ballot from Peter Dutton in an extraordinary Liberal party room vote on Tuesday, prevailing 48 votes to 35.
Mr Dutton’s team reportedly said they were confident they had the numbers to succeed if a vote were to go ahead on Wednesday night, but no spill was called.
His eligibility for the top job has been called into question, however, having been referred to the Solicitor-General over financial interest in two childcare centres that were the recipients of Commonwealth government subsidies.
Ten ministers offered their resignations to Mr Turnbull following Tuesday’s leadership spill, the number later expanding to 13.
Only the resignations of Mr Dutton and International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells were accepted by Mr Turnbull.
Mr Dutton’s (pictured) eligibility for the top job has been called into question however, having been referred to the Solicitor-General over financial interest in two childcare centres
THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF MALCOLM TURNBULL
* The coalition scrapes back into power with a one-seat majority, scoring 50.4 per cent of the two-party vote.
* Proposed same-sex marriage plebiscite is defeated in the Senate.
* Government restores the building industry watchdog
* Government passes controversial backpacker tax.
* Turnbull reshuffles cabinet after an expenses scandal forces the resignation of health minister Sussan Ley.
* PM hoses down reports he was berated by US President Donald Trump over a refugee swap deal.
* Cory Bernardi quits the Liberals to start his own Australian Conservatives party
* Small business tax cuts pass parliament, but broader plan stalls.
* Turnbull unveils plans to make it harder to become an Australian citizen.
* Treasurer Scott Morrison hands down his second budget, announcing a gradual thaw of the Medicare rebate freeze that almost cost Turnbull the election.
* New bank levy clears parliament.
* Turnbull responds to Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s review of the energy market with new rules to restrict gas exports and a plan to scrap a process that allows power companies to raise prices.
* Major school funding overhaul, aka Gonski 2.0, clears parliament with crossbench support.
* Citizenship debacle begins with Greens senator Scott Ludlam resigning. Coalition two-party position slips to 45 per cent.
* Pauline Hanson wears a burqa in parliament. Attorney-General George Brandis describes it as an ‘appalling thing to do’.
* Cabinet minister Fiona Nash and crossbencher Nick Xenophon referred to the High Court over their dual citizenship.
* The High Court boots Barnaby Joyce from parliament because of his dual New Zealand citizenship, while federal minister Matt Canavan and Nick Xenophon can remain.
* 61.6 per cent of Australians say yes to same-sex marriage in a postal survey.
* Turnbull announces a royal commission into misconduct in the financial sector.
* Barnaby Joyce wins by-election and tells parliament that he is separated.
* Same-sex marriage is legalised after new laws clear federal parliament.
* Labor senator Sam Dastyari quits parliament over his Chinese donor connections
* Turnbull pledges a year of ‘rewards’ for Australians after two years of economic reforms.
* After news of his affair with a former staffer breaks in the media, Barnaby Joyce resigns as deputy prime minister and Nationals leader.
* Turnbull says Liberal win in South Australian election is an endorsement of the government’s energy plan.
* Turnbull loses his 30th consecutive Newspoll and shrugs it off as ministers rally around him
* Katy Gallagher case in the High Court leads to more citizenship resignations, this time on the Labor side and crossbencher Rebekha Sharkie.
* The government’s $144billion personal income tax cut plan passes parliament.
* A ‘super Saturday’ of five by-elections brings no wins for the government, with four seats returning to Labor and one crossbench MP.
* Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott speak out over the direction of the government.
* Malcolm Turnbull defeats Peter Dutton 48-35 in a party room leadership ballot. Dutton resigns from frontbench.