UPDATE: 13:27pm AEST: Peter Dutton speaks out after failed leadership bid.
Speaking just hours after he saw off a leadership challenge from frontbencher Peter Dutton, Malcolm Turnbull has broken his silence on the secret party room ballot and announced who will be replacing the former Home Affairs Minister following his resignation from Cabinet.
The Prime Minister defeated Dutton by 48 votes to 35 after announcing a vote on the leadership of the Liberal party in an unexpected meeting on Tuesday morning, despite the Member for Dickson, in Queensland, consistently denying speculation in recent days that he would try to overthrow the Prime Minister.
Following his failed leadership bid, Dutton announced that he would be stepping down from his Cabinet position as Minister for Home Affairs, which he was appointed to in July 2017, and he will now sit on the backbench.
Scott Morrison was then unveiled as Dutton’s replacement, with Turnbull saying that the Treasurer will take over from Dutton as Acting Home Affairs Minister for the time-being, despite having asked his party room rival to remain in the role.
“Peter has done an outstanding job as Home Affairs Minister and I want to thank him for his work,” Turnbull said on Tuesday. “I’ve invited him to continue in that office however he has said to me that he doesn’t feel he can remain in cabinet having challenged me for the leadership and so he is resigning immediately.
“Scott Morrison will act as Home Affairs Minister.”
Speaking moments after Turnbull, Dutton thanked his Liberal Party colleagues for their support and gave a nod to the staff within the Department of Home Affairs, describing it as a “serious business” in which he had to make “tough decisions in the best interests of all Australians”.
“I made a decision not because i had any animosity towards Malcolm Turnbull. I’ve always had a very good working and productive working relationship with Malcolm Turnbull. I made a decision to contest this ballot to keep Bill Shorten from ever being prime minister of this country.
“Any of us in public life are absolutely determined to do the best thing we can by our country, and Bill Shorten would be a disastrous Prime Minister. I believed I had the best prospects to leading Liberal Party to success at next election.
“My job, having lost the ballot today, is to respect the view of the party room, I will work every day to make sure that the coalition is elected at the next election, I never ever want to see Bill Shorten as prime minister of this country.”
Dutton’s challenge for leadership of the party, and in turn the prime ministership, came just two days after he pledged his support, yet again, for Turnbull and his policies amid drama surrounding his signature energy policy.
In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government. My position hasn’t changed from my comments last Thursday.
— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP) August 17, 2018
On August 18, he tweeted: “In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government. My position hasn’t changed from my comments last Thursday.”
Speaking outside of Parliament House in Canberra, following the vote, Turnbull urged his colleagues to show “unity”. He said: “Australians expect us to be focused on them and talking about their issues, they don’t like us to be focused on ourselves.
“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. Disunity undermines the ability of a government to get its job done and we cannot allow internal issues to undermine our work, or to create a real risk that Bill Shorten will be the prime minister.
“As a team we are able to continue to deliver great results for all Australians. We’ve got to put 25 million Australians first. Our job is to work for the people who put us here.”
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party Julie Bishop also spoke briefly, having successfully retained her position after no one contested her for the role. Despite Dutton receiving 35 votes, Bishop described the result as “an overwhelming vote of support for the Prime Minister”.