Malcolm Turnbull will likely face another leadership spill -- here's what it is and how it works

Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesMalcolm Turnbull

Early on Thursday morning, Peter Dutton asked Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to call a party room meeting, saying he believed he had the numbers to take the leadership from the PM.

Turnbull denied. He previously said he wouldn’t do so until a formal petition garnered 43 signatures.

It comes after Dutton made an initial tilt for leadership of the Liberal Party on Tuesday. He subsequently resigned from Cabinet and began building his support base.

Loyal supporters Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash, and Mitch Fifield have also tendered their resignations following Tuesday’s leadership spill, saying Turnbull no longer had the confidence of the party.

Turnbull is now in a difficult position, and many say he is now under pressure to call the meeting, despite the petition.

If a party room meeting goes ahead together, a leadership spill is more than likely to happen.

Along with Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Tony Abbott are believed to be contenders for the position.

But what does that mean?

This explainer from The Conversation will get you up to speed.

It’s been republished from 2013 and lightly edited for clarity.

What is a leadership spill and how does it work?

A leadership spill is brought about in cases where there is disquiet and discontent about current leadership.

It’s safe to say that there has been enough of that this week.

As for the technicalities of the spill, the prime minister convenes a meeting. The meeting is attended by all Liberal members of parliament, that includes senators. All positions are then declared vacant and then they will call for nominations for leader and deputy leader of the party.

If they were in opposition, it would just be the opposition leader. But of course, the extra significance here is the person that becomes the leader of the governing party becomes Prime Minister.

So how do they cast their vote? Is it a secret ballot?

If there is more than one candidate, it is a secret ballot. There will be people appointed to be tellers, they will count the votes, it will all be done in secret and no one will know who they voted for.

In some famous cases of past spills, some people have said that they will vote for one person and have written that name on the ballot paper. But as they are about the throw their ballot paper in the ballot box, they cross it out and put someone else’s name on it.

So it’s done by secret ballot and then it’s counted, and who ever has the 50% plus one majority becomes the leader.

When the vote is cast, is the leader bound to stick to the result?

If a candidate doesn’t win the majority, they will no longer be the leader and no longer prime minister. The person who does win a majority will be and they would need to be sworn in by the governor general.

But it’s an easy thing for parties to get around, it’s not a change in terms of numbers in the parliament, it’s just a change of personnel. So it’s not such a major problem for them.

Does a hung parliament affect a spill?

Well, the parliament tests that support and this will mean the incoming prime minister will need to get the assurance of all the crossbenchers that they will continue to support the party in forming government.

And they only have to promise the incoming leader and their party two things. First that they will vote with them on the budget and they will vote with them on motions of no confidence.

So as long as the incoming prime minister can guarantee their budgets will pass and they can survive no confidence motions, they can govern. And technically they don’t even have to pass any other pieces of legislation ever as long as they can get those two things done.

So what would you see if you were a fly on the wall in caucus today?

Well, it’s fairly unceremonious. As observers, we think there’s some great magic going on but there really isn’t.

Generally it’s just a very prosaic paper ballot. Each candidate is asked to make a short speech about why they should be elected.

And then MPs are asked to write down the name of the candidate that they want to win and put it in a box.

It’s very, very back to basic democracy and it certainly doesn’t have the pomp and ceremony of other sorts of electoral contests.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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