Liberal MPs are expected to rally behind Malcolm Turnbull, as speculation of a challenge from Peter Dutton builds ahead at a party room meeting on Tuesday.
Treasurer Scott Morrison says he’s been assured by Mr Dutton, the conservatives’ standard-bearer, that the home affairs minister is “fully supportive” of the prime minister.
— ABC News (@abcnews) August 20, 2018
“I spoke to Peter (Dutton) today in question time and he said his position hadn’t changed and he was fully supportive of the prime minister and the government’s policies,” Mr Morrison told the ABC’s 730 program on Monday night.
Another cabinet minister, Christopher Pyne, said Mr Turnbull’s leadership was “absolutely secure”.
“(He has) 100 per cent support of the cabinet,” Mr Pyne told 6PR radio.
“I do not think there will be any change in leadership. I think the party is extremely united behind Malcolm Turnbull and he will lead us to the next election.”
But a report in The Australian on Tuesday said Mr Turnbull had lost confidence of nine Liberal cabinet ministers – half of the Liberal contingent and Mr Dutton could move as early as Tuesday to challenge.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) August 20, 2018
But Mr Dutton may wait until parliament resumes in September to challenge Mr Turnbull.
Mr Dutton’s camp believed it could get to the 43 votes needed to oust Mr Turnbull, but the prime minister’s backers says he still had majority partyroom support.
Fellow MPs from Mr Dutton’s home state of Queensland are also understood to have been encouraged to turn on Mr Turnbull.
Mr Turnbull told reporters earlier on Monday he had the confidence of the cabinet and the partyroom and Mr Dutton’s “absolute support”.
The prime minister on Monday again changed his national policy, making changes to the National Energy Guarantee, widely seen as an attempt to placate pro-coal climate sceptics in the coalition,
Coalition MPs will debate the detail of the policy at Tuesday’s 9am meeting but legislation setting emissions targets won’t be part of the discussion, having been shelved by Mr Turnbull.
On Monday night, the prime minister did not turn up at an AFL event in Canberra. He was replaced by his deputy Michael McCormack.
A key agitator, former prime minister Tony Abbott, says the government would not be in its current fix if Mr Turnbull had been as attentive to the coalition backbench as he was to the Senate crossbench.
The coalition has lagged Labor in 38 successive Newspolls, eight more than Tony Abbott’s record. However, Mr Turnbull has consistently rated higher than Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister.