Turnbull is calling for unity, but his rival won't rule out another challenge

Quinn Rooney/Getty ImagesPrime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull

  • Malcolm Turnbull narrowly won a leadership ballot against Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton 48 votes to 35 this morning.
  • Dutton has resigned from Cabinet so there will be a reshuffle and Turnbull is now clearly leading a divided party.
  • He didn’t deny that he would make another tilt for the leadership, saying now he wants “to make sure I can help the Coalition win the next election”.

Malcolm Turnbull is still the Prime Minister of Australia after a leadership spill.

The PM declared the leadership of the Liberal Party vacant in a party room meeting on Tuesday morning and won a ballot vote 48 to 35, surviving a challenge from Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.

Dutton said he challenged the Prime Minister to ensure Opposition leader Bill Shorten didn’t have a chance of becoming leader of Australia, and that he held “no personal animosity” towards Turnbull — signalling he would remain open to working with him.

“I respect the outcome, and I fully support the Prime Minister,” he said.

He also thanked his colleagues for their “considerable support”.

Following the spill results, Turnbull said it was now time to get on with the job and focus on what the electorate wants because “they don’t like us being focused on ourselves, or focused on each other.”

He said the vote is a reminder that the party needs “to be united and keep delivering for the people for whom they work: the 25 million Australians.

“We cannot allow… internal issues to undermine our work, to create a risk that Bill Shorten will be the Prime Minister.

“United we will maintain the strong momentum our government has [achieved],” he said, referencing lower taxes, record spending on essential services, lower energy bills, strong economic growth and jobs growth.

When asked whether he thought he was a dead man walking, Turnbull said: “I’m afraid to say I can’t agree with you there, and the results for the ballot today demonstrate that.”

Turnbull is now leading a divided party, and the strength of Dutton’s support will have come as a shock.

Dutton has resigned from Cabinet and will return to the backbench, where many suspect he will immediately set about courting more colleagues to back him, and prepare for another challenge.

It could come as soon as this week. With Turnbull’s authority seriously undermined, there are rumours already circulating that Dutton will try again on Thursday.

If Dutton was to plan another challenge on Thursday, he is now free to speak publicly about what he thinks the government needs to do in order to get back on track with voters.

When asked, following the spill, whether he would make another tilt for the leadership, Dutton said his job moving forward was “to make sure I can help the Coalition win the next election”.

Speaking to the media, Dutton spent a considerable amount of time recounting his parliamentary experience, including serving as assistant treasurer in the Howard government under Peter Costello.

Andrew Probyn on ABC reported that Turnbull addressed the partyroom and after outlining the government’s achievements, he noted there had been some angst over the leadership before declaring: “We are bringing it to an end.”

Turnbull also asked Dutton to remain as Home Affairs minister but the Queensland MP declined.

“He said to me that he doesn’t feel he can remain in the cabinet having challenged me,” said Turnbull.

“I don’t bare any grudges to Peter Dutton. It’s really important to put these difference behind us and get on with our job of getting on with what the 25 million Australians have put us here to do.”

Treasurer Scott Morrison will absorb the Home Affairs title.

Turnbull’s support among MPs started crumbling after his capitulation on a key energy policy yesterday. The Prime Minister had to tell the parliament that he could not proceed with his legislation on the National Energy Guarantee, effectively conceding that the government had lost the ability to get key legislation through the lower house.

Tony Abbott, who has criticised the PM for abandoning his convictions and drummed up support for a leadership challenge, today said “unity has to be created and loyalty had to be earned”.

One of Turnbull’s problems in office has been his poor personal relationship with Abbott, who has been actively campaigning against the prime minister’s agenda.

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