Liberal Party Leadership Update

23 August 2018

It has been a truly extraordinary week in Federal politics and today was no exception. The situation with the Liberal Party leadership is extremely fluid. The following update is based on the most current information at 5.30pm, August 23, 2018.

What we know

Following Tuesday’s leadership ballot in which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull prevailed over challenger Peter Dutton 48 votes to 35, the PM addressed the media this afternoon to announce that he will invite a spill motion tomorrow if he receives a petition of a majority of the Liberal party room requesting a meeting.

He would then convene the meeting for midday tomorrow and ask if there is a spill motion for the leadership. In the event it proceeds, Mr Turnbull won’t contest the ballot and will quit the parliament, saying he has “made it very clear that I believe former prime ministers are best out of the parliament”. This would trigger a by-election in the Sydney electorate of Wentworth, adding additional pressure on the Government’s slim one seat majority.

The confirmed candidates for the leadership are former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Deputy Leader and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ruled himself out.

However, since Mr Turnbull’s media conference, supporters of Mr Dutton have pulled the petition from circulation claiming that because the leadership is now a three-cornered contest it is the duty of the Chief Government Whip, Nola Marino, to call the party room meeting under her own authority.

Mr Turnbull also said he wants to wait for a legal opinion from the Solicitor General on Peter Dutton’s eligibility to sit in the parliament, casting doubt on Mr Dutton’s bid for the top job. This is due to Mr Dutton’s business interests in childcare centres that may test Section 44(v) of the constitution which prevents parliamentarians from having an indirect pecuniary interest in an agreement with the Commonwealth.

Senior ministers Cormann, Cash and Fifield announced this morning their view that the PM no longer had the confidence of the Liberal party room and tendered their resignations. This followed the resignations of a number of other ministers.

The House of Representatives was adjourned around midday for the rest of the day with some 13 ministers having resigned and the Government unable to front question time. Parliament does not resume until 10 September.

Other ministerial resignations among frontbenchers who supported Dutton in Tuesday’s ballot have included:

  • Health Minister Greg Hunt
  • Human Services Minister Michael Keenan
  • Trade Minister Steven Ciobo
  • Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge
  • Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor
  • International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells


Back to articles