Prime minister barely survives leadership challenge in Australia


Prime minister barely survives leadership challenge in Australia

Mike Head and James Cogan

21 August 2018

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull barely survived a Liberal Party leadership ballot against Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton this morning, holding on by 48 votes to 35. Dutton immediately resigned as a cabinet minister, and others may follow, forcing Turnbull to reshuffle his ministry and further weakening his position.

The size of the vote for Dutton, a more openly right-wing, anti-immigrant and protectionist figure from the party’s “conservative” faction, indicates that the move against Turnbull is far from over. With Dutton now free to attack government policy publicly, media commentators are predicting either another leadership challenge in the weeks or months ahead or Turnbull’s resignation as prime minister.

The immediate trigger for the move against Turnbull was a rebellion, within both the Liberal and National parties that make up the Coalition government, against one of his signature policies, the so-called National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

After two earlier abrupt reversals on central features of the NEG, Turnbull yesterday abandoned plans to legislate his policy, admitting that he would be defeated on the floor of parliament by backbench members of his own government.

Under conditions in which the Coalition only holds office by a one-seat majority, such an outcome would have been tantamount to an open split and would have led to strident calls for an election—which must be held in any case no later than May 2019.

Further undermining Turnbull’s position, it was also confirmed last night that his other core policy—a multi-billion dollar corporate tax cut for big business to try to match US tax cuts—is headed for certain defeat. He has…

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