More Coalition MPs are reportedly turning on Turnbull, and his grip on power is on the brink

(Photo by Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

  • Malcolm Turnbull’s support among Liberal MPs could be tested in a formal partyroom vote as early as this morning.
  • Multiple reports say there is momentum behind a push to replace Turnbull with Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton and if it isn’t triggered today, it appears only a matter of time before the Prime Minister is challenged.

Malcolm Turnbull could face a challenge to his leadership as early as this morning, with detailed plans having been drawn up for a takeover of power by conservative elements within the Liberal Party involving Peter Dutton as a prime minister.

There was a further loss of support for Turnbull among MPs yesterday, according to multiple reports. His key supporters were on the phones last night trying to shore up support after yesterday’s further shifts on energy policy.

A partyroom meeting at 9am AEST in Canberra could decide Turnbull’s fate. Dutton, the Home Affairs minister who has been urged by rebel conservative elements to stand against the Prime Minister, would reportedly challenge Turnbull himself in the partyroom, rather than have a motion to spill the leadership proposed by a backbencher.

Dutton needs the support of 43 MPs and Senators to take the leadership. If Turnbull’s support isn’t tested in the partyroom this week, Dutton will need to wait until the next sitting of Parliament in September.

With the Coalition holding just a one-seat majority in the lower house, a defeat of Turnbull runs the risk of plunging the country into political chaos and an early general election should any of his key supporters resign.

With the speed of developments in the past 48 hours it is unclear if Dutton would have the numbers in the partyroom but there are reports Turnbull may have lost the confidence of half the Cabinet.

The head of the Liberal National Party’s Queensland branch was yesterday calling the 21 MPs and senators from the state urging them to switch their support to Dutton, arguing they could save their seats and might even pick up another one from Labor but faced doom under Turnbull.

In a sign of how advanced the thinking is among Turnbull’s opponents, The Daily Telegraph reports this morning on detailed plans for Tony Abbott’s role in a Dutton government.

The Telegraph says Abbott would return to “a prestigious portfolio” such as Home Affairs or Defence and would be “tasked with being the Dutton Government’s chief attack dog” to campaign against opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Abbott would also “raise money, galvanise the base and build morale with the membership,” the Telegraph says.

Abbott, who has become openly hostile to Turnbull in recent weeks, is reported to have told a gathering of young Liberals on the weekend that he was looking forward to serving in a Dutton government.

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