politics

Uh, what the hell just happened in Australian politics?

Look, at least no one can accuse Australian politics of being boring.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the solicitor-general’s legal advice on whether Peter Dutton is eligible for parliament needs to be seen by Liberal MPs before another leadership spill.

Dutton, who is gunning to replace Turnbull as prime minister, has been facing questions over his interest in two Brisbane centres through his family’s RHT Family Trust.

Turnbull said if the solicitor-general’s advice cleared Dutton on Friday morning, there could be a partyroom meeting and a spill motion, but he also wants to see the letter purportedly signed by 43 Liberal MPs calling for the meeting – to be held at noon.

“You can imagine the consequences of having a prime minister whose actions and decisions are questionable because of the issue of eligibility,” the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

From July this year, childcare centres receive a direct subsidy from the federal government, raising questions as to whether Dutton could be under a constitutional cloud.

Dutton queried why the story came out as he was challenging the prime minister.

“The timing on the eve of current events in Australian politics is curious,” he said in a statement.

“There has never been any doubt about my eligibility to sit in the parliament and I attach the unequivocal legal advice I obtained in 2017 to that effect.”

The business interest raises questions over whether government support to the centres is a constitutional problem for Dutton and whether he was involved in cabinet decisions on the childcare sector.

This could put him in breach of section 44 of the constitution, which bans people from parliament who have “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the commonwealth”.

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Here’s what led to the current situation:

I’m confused… WTF happened?

Australia does not have a new prime minister. Yet.

On Tuesday Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull survived a leadership spill, which saw Peter Dutton contest the leadership of the Liberal Party of Australia.

Turnbull survived, but only just. In fact, this is the worst result by a prime minister surviving a leadership ballot.

He declared a Liberal leadership spill on Tuesday morning and Dutton put up his hand to challenge.

Turnbull emerged victorious, with party whip Nola Marino confirming Turnbull won 48 votes to 35 for Dutton.

It all happened very quickly, and Dutton has since resigned from the ministry. One positive for him is that he can now hang out on the backbench with his pal, Tony Abbott.

As of Thursday morning, Dutton is demanding a second leadership spill today after telling Malcolm Turnbull he has the support to take his job as prime minister.

Prime Minister Turnbull has lost the support of key cabinet ministers Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash, who will now back challenger Dutton.

Treasurer Scott Morrison is reportedly preparing to run against Dutton to replace Turnbull as Prime Minister.

Morrison declared his support for Mr Turnbull on Wednesday, but multiple media outlets report he could now run for the top job if the prime minister steps aside.

So, uh, why did this leadership spill happen?

The coalition’s primary vote has dropped from 39 to 33 in just a month, according to the latest Fairfax/Ipsos poll published on Sunday night.

Labor leads the coalition 55 per cent to 45 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

The Australian reported that rebellion on the Liberal backbench spread over the weekend as ministers struggled to achieve internal consensus on the National Energy Guarantee.

The National Energy Guarantee, known as the Neg, is a policy that planned to impose two obligations on energy retailers: an obligation to supply sufficient quantities of reliable power to the market and an obligation to reduce emissions between 2020 and 2030.

On Monday Turnbull outlined a raft of major changes to this energy policy, including abandoning plans to legislate carbon emission targets.

Critics of the policy were deeply unhappy with the 26 per cent reduction target contained in the Neg, and Turnbull said this was scrapped because it would not have passed the House of Representatives due to opposition from members of his own party.

Dutton represents a much more conservative Liberal Party than Turnbull, whose policies have been very much based on socially progressive ideals.

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“Dutton represents Liberal MPs who were supportive of Tony Abbott and have been feeling disappointment with Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and policy portfolio,” Monash University School of Social Sciences political scientist Dr Zareh Ghazarian told Mamamia.

“Turnbull has lost their support because of a whole list of policy decisions made that they would oppose.”

Another reason Dutton was the one to mount a challenge was because he was a well-recognised figure from Queensland. In order to win the next election, the government will need to defend eight marginal seats in the state, including Dutton’s own seat of Dickson.

Many within the party saw a Dutton leadership as the best bet to hold these seats.

Okay, makes sense. But what now?

Turnbull is safe… for now. Wounded prime ministers tend not to survive.

Dr Ghazarian told Mamamia that Turnbull’s job is simply to “limp to the next election” – but he’s got a fight on his hands.

Turnbull has said his next move is dependant on the legal advice he receives from the solicitor-general.

He could call an early election and hope his bitterly divided party rallies behind him. In that scenario, given current polls, Labor under Bill Shorten is almost certain to romp home in a landside.

A second option is to continue in the leadership with a freshened-up frontbench, but a disgruntled backbench which includes a former prime minister, an ex-deputy prime minister and a growing gaggle of former ministers.

The internal bleeding will continue and Turnbull will struggle to deal with continued sniping, especially from conservatives who have always distrusted their moderate leader.

If Dutton’s eligibility is confirmed and it is clear the majority of Liberal MPs want a leadership spill, Turnbull will step aside.

Whoever wins the spill then has just under eight months to pull together an election platform.

If Dutton wins, this will likely be based on the Abbott-style blunt messages of strong economic management, lower immigration levels, “stop the boats” and cheaper power prices – and reunite the party.

What’s the public reaction to the leadership spill been like?

We’ll let these tweets do the talking:


Don’t know what’s happening in Canberra? Mamamia Out Loud speaks to the woman who broke the #libspill story, Sharri Markson….

With AAP.

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