Australia's Malcolm Turnbull survives leadership challenge -- fo

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

24 August, 2018

But some Liberal MPs believe Mr Dutton's failed challenge was only the start, and there could be another leadership ballot later this week. Turnbull is suddenly on the lookout for new ministers, while Dutton is faced with a headache that he could win the Liberal leadership but immediately lose government.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo and Human Services Minister Michael Keenan released statements offering support to the prime minister after it was reported they had also voted for Mr Dutton, along with Health Minister Greg Hunt.

He was also asked if he would include former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in his cabinet.

"My job is to keep Bill Shorten away from government", Dutton said.

The government has trailed the centre-left opposition Labor Party in most opinion polls since the last election in 2016.

Mr Dutton, now a backbencher, offered reporters a tortured reasoning that it wasn't Mr Turnbull he wanted to block but Labor's Bill Shorten.

"I do think there is a danger for him", she said.

"There's no doubt that when one major party is tearing itself apart over leadership and that major party happens to be the party of government, the other major party in opposition benefits", said Nick Economou, senior lecturer in politics at Monash University in Melbourne.

Now effectively neutered and unlikely to proceed, the NEG will become a millstone for Turnbull as he tries to rally his diminishing support base.

Tuesday's leadership challenge came after weeks of conservative government Members of Parliament (MPs) threatening to rebel against Turnbull over the prime minister's signature energy policy, the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

Mr Turnbull reportedly asked all three ministers to stay on.

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"I've invited him to continue in that office, however he has said to me that he doesn't feel he can remain in the Cabinet having challenged me for the leadership of the party, and so he is resigning".

Then Home Affairs Minister Dutton was revealed as the conservative challenger, backed by Abbott and others as the best hope of retaining office in the 2019 poll.

In an attempt to ease these concerns, Mr Turnbull is expected to propose the country's carbon reduction targets be set by regulation instead. "He's given me his absolute support", the Prime Minister said.

His position remains in jeopardy despite surviving Dutton's challenge, stoking expectations of further political instability in a country that has seen six different leaders since 2009.

"[Foreign Minister] Julie Bishop was the one person who nominated for that role and she's the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party". "My job from here ... is to make sure I can prosecute the sort of messages I just spoke about".

In his parliamentary register of interest, Mr Dutton lists himself as a beneficiary of RHT Family Trust - along with his wife and children.

Mr Dutton's entry to the leadership beauty contest was needed because while he was a high-profile minister, many voters know little about him, or simply liked or disliked him for his stop-the-boats management.

"This is my leader and I'm ambitious for him", Mr Morrison said, giving Mr Turnbull a hug.

Dutton's supporters are doing the numbers ahead of a crucial Liberal Party room meeting at 9am.

Some of the boasts on his leadership shingle will be challenged.

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