Federal politics began yesterday with a snap leadership spill in the Liberal partyroom called by Malcolm Turnbull attempting to catch his conservative plotters off guard. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton the conservatives choice of candidate stood and got 35 votes to Turnbull’s 48. Such a narrow margin for a leader for first challenge against has not ended the speculation at all. The first strike is normally unsuccessful but if enough MPs vote against the leader it wounds them and the second strike proves to be fatal.
Peter Dutton resigned from Cabinet and said at a later press conference he was proud of his work in Home Affairs, border protection and his Ministerial work during the Howard years. Dutton claimed he challenged because he thought he was the best person to defeat Bill Shorten and outlined energy policy, immigration and infrastructure as key policy areas needed to be addressed. He did not dump on Malcolm Turnbull and said his challenge was nothing personal.
Dutton made similar comments to Laura Jayes on Sky News that afternoon and also hinted he wanted to show his softer side and not just be seen as the tough man he had to be in Home Affairs. He would not rule out a second challenge and also said he was not a puppet of Tony Abbott or anyone else.
Malcolm Turnbull and re-elected Deputy Julie Bishop at their joint press conference claimed the partyroom displayed overwhelming confidence in the current leadership and it was time to unite to move on. Most saw this spin on the morning’s events as laughable.
Questi0n Time saw Bill Shorten and Labor move a no-confidence motion against the government to sink the boot in and create a further sense of chaos in Canberra. Turnbull was defended by his loyal vanguard of Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Michael McCormack.
What followed in the evening was a series of resignations from the frontbench from Dutton supporters. First was Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, James McGrath, Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor, Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation Zed Seselja, Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan, Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge, the speculated running mate of Dutton Minister for Health Greg Hunt, and Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo. Only Dutton’s and Fierravanti-Wells’ resignations were accepted due to being in writing.
Given that Turnbull has been mortally wounded by yesterday’s spill speculation has run rampant about when the second and all but certain fatal spill will occur. September 10th when Parliament next sits and after Turnbull’s 40th Newspoll loss was considered the most likely time however as the government now appears to be in a permanent state of instability and paralyses. Many are now predicting another spill by the end of the week if not today.
Rumours about numbers being counted and moving have been reported all morning. Scott Morrison was rumoured to be planning his own leadership tilt to come through the middle of a Dutton vs Turnbull contest. Tony Abbott has been reported as being guaranteed a spot in a Dutton cabinet. Darren Chester, Damian Drum and two other Nationals have been reported as threatening to move to the crossbench if Peter Dutton becomes Prime Minister throwing the country into either minority government or a snap election.
Peter Dutton today has given an extensive interview to Neil Mitchell on Radio 3AW where he gave more detail about his alternative policy vision for the country.He proposed exempting the GST from household electricity bills and holding a royal commission into the energy and petrol retails to uncover why prices have continued to increase. He confirmed he had been talking with colleagues about developments and spoke like a person who was plotting a challenge.
Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison and Mathias Cormann appeared at a press conference at 1pm today to announce the government was abandoning the company tax cuts after their defeat in the Senate. This is the second policy backdown from Malcolm Turnbull this week after the death of the National Energy Guarantee. When questioned both Morrison and Cormann affirmed their continued loyalty to Malcolm Turnbull as their leader.
Dutton will not challenge and a partyroom meeting called unless he and his supporters know they have the numbers. Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove has cancelled his overseas travel plans due to the current leadership crisis. Turnbull will not resign or step aside for a preferred candidate like Morrison or Bishop. For now the waiting came continues until the numbers align.