A wounded Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has fronted the media with a plea for party unity after narrowly winning Tuesday morning’s leadership challenge from Peter Dutton.
Appearing before journalists with his deputy, Julie Bishop, Mr Turnbull warned that “unstability” would only create “a real risk” of a Bill Shorten prime ministership.
“It is very important that today the Liberal Party room has confirmed our leadership of the party,” he said.
“A reminder for parties and governments to be united and determined to keep delivering for the people for whom they work.
“We know that instability undermines the ability of any government to get anything done. Unity is critical.”
At a party room meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Turnbull declared the Liberal leadership vacant, and was immediately challenged by Mr Dutton.
Mr Turnbull won the subsequent poll by 45 votes to 38.
The deputy Liberal leadership was also declared vacant. Ms Bishop was the only candidate.
Soon after the meeting, Mr Dutton stood down from the key portfolio of Home Affairs. Mr Turnbull told the media conference that Mr Dutton had done an outstanding job, and he had invited him to stay on as minister.
Mr Dutton refused. He will be replaced, for now, by Treasurer Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister said.
Ms Bishop said Tuesday’s result was an overwhelming vote of support for Mr Turnbull.
“What I say to all those who didn’t vote for the Prime Minister, we now have the opportunity to focus on what the electorate want to hear from us,” she said.
“That is we are directing all our energies, all our efforts into lower taxes, lower costs, particularly energy costs, and more jobs in the Australian people.”
However, the narrow margin of the leadership result is likely to create further problems for the government, as it exposes the split within the Liberal Party.
The ABC has reported there were heated exchanges during Tuesday morning’s meeting, with former prime minister Tony Abbott calling for the Coalition to have a stronger point of difference with the Labor Party.
Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch responded to Mr Abbott using “very pointed language”, and reprimanded him for undermining the party with his regular public criticism of Mr Turnbull.
Mr Abbott later released a statement in response.
“Unlike too many of my colleagues, my practice is take responsibility for what I think and say,” he said.
Tusday’s challenge from Mr Dutton came after Mr Turnbull’s capitulation to energy policy rebels in his ranks on Monday, which failed to dissipate the threat to his leadership.
Adding to the Prime Minister’s woes have been a string of poor poll results.
The Coalition has lagged Labor in 38 successive Newspolls, eight more than Mr Abbott’s record. However, Mr Turnbull has consistently rated higher than Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister. A fresh Newspoll is due out on Monday (August 27).
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the Prime Minister should call an election, if he survives the week.
“I think that would be a good thing for the nation, because something has to change, this is chaos in the parliament at the moment,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.