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Australian PM battens down the hatches as conservative elements try to unseat him


Australian PM battens down the hatches as conservative elements try to unseat him

Photo: ABC/Matt Roberts

Today, Australia faces another possible leadership challenge that could put an end to Malcolm Turnbull’s premiership of almost three years.

Under pressure from poor results in recent by-elections, Mr Turnbull has come under concerted pressure from conservative elements in recent weeks, forcing him to reverse key policy positions—first on energy and then, yesterday, on corporate tax cuts.

On Tuesday, Turnbull’s Liberal Party partly revolted against his leadership, with the prime minister narrowly surviving a party leadership ballot brought by ex-Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton by just seven votes.

The Dutton camp has launched a last-minute effort to oust Mr Turnbull, circulating a petition among MPs designed to trigger a second and decisive leadership spill today—the last day such a motion can be brought before the beginning of a two-week recess.

However, Mr Dutton faces a series of hurdles to clinch the top job. For starters, due to his national security-focused ministries, Dutton has a stern public persona (or none at all). Meanwhile, some of Dutton’s supporters have wavered at his suggestion to strip sales tax from energy bills to reduce power prices, claiming that this would add red tape. He also faces constitutional issues over his eligibility to sit in parliament.

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Photo: Reuters

Crucially, questions are also being asked about whether a Dutton government could command a majority in parliament. The current Turnbull government has a mere one-seat majority. With current coalition partners suggesting they would not support a Dutton government, and left-leaning independents insisting they would guarantee their support, it appears that the days of the current government are numbered.

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