Malcolm Turnbull won the ballot 48-35. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Turnbull survives votes on leadership, no-confidence

Tuesday, 21 August, 2018 - 08:48

Two frontbenchers have reportedly offered their resignations to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this afternoon, adding to that of former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, after Mr Turnbull held off a leadership challenge this morning.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar and Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath have both reportedly offered resignations, although it is unclear if Mr Turnbull will accept them.

It is also unclear if the moves will spark further departures from the ministry, which may precipitate a second leadership battle.

Mr Turnbull called the leadership ballot this morning, and won 48 votes to 35 against Mr Dutton.

That was not a large enough margin to prevent speculation about the stability of Mr Turnbull's leadership, however.

Mr Turnbull offered to allow Mr Dutton to continue in his role as Home Affairs minister despite the challenge, while Mr Dutton declined.

A further battle ensued in parliament, where the government defeated a no-confidence motion from Labor.

Government leader in the House of Representatives, Christopher Pyne, surprised some commentators by allowing the no-confidence motion on the floor of parliament, but successfully fended off the move, which would have led to an election, by 76 votes to 67.

High energy

The leadership challenge followed a week of infighting about the party's National Energy Guarantee policy, which was broadly supported by industry.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop, a Western Australian, was unopposed to continue in that role.

It is unclear if there will be a future leadership challenge, either this week or in coming months.

To put it in context, Labor led the coalition 51 to 49 on a two-party preferred basis in the most recent Newspoll, while Mr Turnbull led as preffered prime minister by 12 points.

It follows a week where Mr Turnbull was forced to make a series of changes to the National Energy Guarantee policy to appease a small number of backbenchers who claimed an emissions reduction target of 28 per cent, set by former prime minister Tony Abbott, was too close to Labor's 45 per cent target.

Mr Dutton was also rumoured to be running on a policy to cut immigration.

Speaking to journalists after the result, Mr Turnbull emphasised the importance of unity.

"United, we will maintain the strong momentum and great achievements our government has made," Mr Turnbull said.

"We've been able to get an enormous amount done, we've had record jobs growth, strong economic growth, we've been able to reduce business taxes, personal taxes.

"Peter has done an outstanding job as Home Affairs minister. I've invited him to continue in that office, however, he has said to me that he doesn't feel that he can remain in the cabinet, having challenged me for the leadership of the party."

In the interim, Treasurer Scott Morrison will hold the portfolio of Home Affairs.

"I don't bear any grudge against Peter Dutton," Mr Turnbull said.

"It's really important that we put these differences behind us and get on with our job of looking after the 25 million Australians that have put us here.

"They hate it when we're talking about each other."

Deputy leader Julie Bishop was positive.

"The result today was an overwheming result of support for the PM," Ms Bishop said.

'I've seen leadership challenges before, it's an overwheling vote of support for the leadership team."

Backbencher Craig Kelly, a chief agitator on energy policy, said on ABC radio that he hoped there would not be another challenge.

"It's now time for stability, its time to get back and be arguing the differences," Mr Kelly said.

"The good work we're doing in the coalition ... and the economically damaging policies of Labor.

"We've seen over a million new jobs created, we've got to keep that going."

Also speaking to journalists, Mr Dutton said he wanted to show a different side of himself outside of border protection issues.

"I've served loyally four Liberal leaders, including Malcolm Turnbull," he said.

"I'm very proud of the fact I got children out of detention. I worked very closely with Malcolm Turnbull to make sure we could achieve that.

"I made a decision to contest this ballot because I want to make sure we can keep Bill Shorten from ever being prime minister of this country.

"Bill Shorten would be a disastrous prime minister of this country. I believed I had the best prospect.

"I fully support the PM.

"I believe strongly we can win the next election."

Mr Dutton said he would do everything as a backbencher to support the government.