Australia PM Survives Leadership Vote 08/21 08:52
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
called on his government to unite behind him after he survived an internal
leadership challenge Tuesday. But several ministers who backed the failed
challenger offered their resignations in a move that widens the rift in
His challenger, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, resigned from the
Cabinet after the vote but the amount of support he gained surprised many
people. Turnbull ruled out any retribution against ministers suspected of
supporting Dutton and said he had invited Dutton to remain in the senior
"I don't bear any grudge against Peter Dutton for having stood up and
challenged me today," Turnbull said at a news conference with deputy party
leader Julie Bishop, who retained her position unopposed in Tuesday's ballot.
"We know that disunity undermines the ability of any government to get its
job done and unity is absolutely critical," Turnbull added.
But Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath, Minister for
International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar confirmed within hours that they had offered
their resignations after backing Dutton.
"Our conservative base strongly feel that their voice has been eroded,"
Fierravanti-Wells wrote in a resignation letter to Turnbull, a centrist leader.
"I voted for Peter Dutton ... As a matter of integrity, this afternoon I
offered my resignation," McGrath posted on social media.
Other ministers have also reportedly resigned or are planning to resign in a
move that undermines Turnbull's hopes for his political survival.
It was not immediately clear whether Turnbull will accept the resignations.
Turnbull called the vote at a meeting of conservative Liberal Party
lawmakers as speculation mounted about his support within the government, which
is gearing up for a general election due early next year. The government has
trailed the opposition Labor Party in most opinion polls since the last
election in 2016.
Turnbull won 48 votes to 35. One lawmaker abstained and another was away on
Australia has gone through an extraordinary period of political instability
since Prime Minister John Howard lost power in 2007 after more than 11 years in
office. Ousting Turnbull would have been the sixth leadership change since then.
Next month, Turnbull would become Australia's longest-serving prime minister
since Howard, having held office for three years and four days.
Dutton supporters say the former police drug squad detective could have
amassed enough support to successfully challenge for the leadership if the vote
had been held Thursday before Parliament takes a two-week break and lawmakers
won't gather again until Sept. 10.
Dutton later thanked his colleagues for their "considerable support" in the
"I believe that I was the best person to lead the Liberal Party to success
at the next election," Dutton told reporters.
He said he respected the outcome of the ballot and fully supported Turnbull.
He didn't specifically rule out challenging the prime minister again. Treasurer
Scott Morrison will act as home affairs minister.
Nick Economou, a political analyst at Monash University in Melbourne,
believes lawmakers are abandoning Turnbull because they fear he will lead them
to a crushing defeat in the elections.
Turnbull made a major concession to his opponents within his party on Monday
by abandoning plans to legislate to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
The concession avoided having the most conservative government lawmakers
voting against the legislation in Parliament, openly undermining his authority.
But former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was replaced by Turnbull in a
ballot of government lawmakers in 2015, advised Turnbull in a statement on
Tuesday that "unity has to be created and loyalty has to be earned. They can't
just be demanded."