The Australian public was shocked on Tuesday when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unexpectedly declared the leadership of the Liberal Party vacant, triggering a challenge from former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
The Prime Minister prevailed, holding onto his position as leader, and therefore PM, after defeating Dutton 48 votes to 35 in a secret party room ballot at Parliament House.
However things only look set to get worse for Turnbull as eight Liberal National Party MPs have since offered their resignations to the Prime Minister, in a chain-effect set off by Dutton after he stepped down as Minister for Home Affairs following the vote.
Two cabinet ministers and five junior conservative frontbenchers stepped down or offered to resign, revealing they pledged their support for Peter Dutton in yesterday’s ballot.
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo and Human Services Minister Michael Keenan last night offered to resign, with The Australian reporting that they admitted to Turnbull they had not voted for him in the partyroom meeting.
Ciobo and Keenan are said to have met with the PM after question time to offer to step down but The Australian allege that Turnbull refused to accept them, reporting that he has only accepted the resignations of Dutton and senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who penned a scathing letter criticising his leadership.
In her letter, Fierravanti-Wells accused the prime minister of shifting the party too far to the left, saying: “Our conservative base feel that their voice has been eroded.”
Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Angus Taylor, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, Assistant Minister for the Prime Minister James McGrath and Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and Innovation, Zed Seselja, also offered their resignation to Turnbull following Tuesday’s events.
Speaking outside of Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday, following the vote, Turnbull urged his colleagues to show “unity”, saying the narrow victory “confirmed my leadership”.
“Australians expect us to be focused on them and talking about their issues, they don’t like us to be focused on ourselves,” he said. “Today is a reminder of the need for political parties and the Government to be united and determined, to keep delivering for the people for whom they work.”
Labor is focused on an economic and social program for the future of Australia. Today doesn’t change that.
My Labor team is united. Our policies are ready for the next election.
— Bill Shorten (@billshortenmp) August 21, 2018
While Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop, whose position was also spilled, but went uncontested, on Tuesday said the result was a “resounding vote of support in the leadership team”.
Dutton, however, did not categorically rule out having another go at trying to land the top job, but did claim that he “respected the view of the party room”, saying he would work every day to prevent Labor, and Bill Shorten, from getting into power.
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten got involved in Tuesday’s drama too, moving a motion of no confidence in the House of Representatives and calling on his parliamentary colleagues to stand against Turnbull. However the motion did not pass.