Thu, Aug 23, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Australian ministers offer resignations

‘IRON LAWS’:Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his leadership was confirmed by a vote on Tuesday, but a former minister is campaigning to challenge him again

AFP, SYDNEY

At least 10 ministers have offered their resignations as a leadership crisis in Australian politics deepened yesterday, with another challenge against Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appearing inevitable.

The embattled leader on Tuesday narrowly survived a move to unseat him by then-Australian minister for home affairs Peter Dutton with a Liberal Party ballot voting 48-35 in Turnbull’s favor.

It came to a head after months of poor opinion polls and a revolt by fellow Liberal politicians on Monday against his plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law at a time of soaring power prices.

Despite Turnbull’s win, it laid bare that dozens of his own lawmakers do not want him as their leader.

Dutton yesterday worked the telephones and blitzed the airwaves to shore up more support for another widely expected crack at the top job.

Dutton quit his Cabinet position after his failed leadership bid, with at least nine other ministers also offering to go, according to a tally by broadcasters Australian Broadcasting Corp and Sky News. They included the health and trade ministers, both frontbenchers.

Turnbull has only accepted two resignations — Dutton and former Australian minister for international development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells — and said that the others had since “given me unequivocal assurances of continuing loyalty and support.”

However, buoyed by his support, Dutton, seen as a more hardline conservative than Turnbull, worked to soften his perceived tough-guy image, earned as home affairs and immigration minister, in media interviews, in which he laid out his policy agenda.

The former police officer, who admitted that he rarely smiles, made no secret of still wanting to run the country.

“I’m speaking to colleagues, I’m not going to beat around the bush with that, mate,” he told commercial radio station 3AW on again attempting to dump Turnbull.

“That’s being very honest and upfront with you and that’s how I see it,” he said.

He added that he thinks he could win an election — due by the middle of next year — as leader against opposition leader Bill Shorten of the Labor Party.

“I would never run for the leadership not believing that I could beat Bill Shorten,” the 47-year-old said.

If he became prime minister, Dutton said he would focus on lowering electricity prices, cutting immigration to ease population pressures and boost water investment to help drought-stricken farmers.

Some media outlets were tipping another challenge as early as this week, but Dutton supporters signaled that it was more likely next month after parliament returns from a break.

Turnbull fronted the media alongside Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison and Australian Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, a close friend of Dutton, with both pledging their loyalty.

Asked if he expected another leadership challenge this week, Turnbull, who has pleaded for party unity, replied: “No.”

“The iron laws of arithmetic confirmed my leadership of the Liberal Party,” he added.

Despite his defiant tone, many believe he will not last much longer.

“Now that the genie is out of the bottle, I’m not sure we can put it back,” said Liberal lawmaker Craig Kelly, a Dutton supporter, when asked if Turnbull could survive.

Complicating matters were reports that at least three National Party lawmakers — who are in a governing coalition with the Liberals — would no longer guarantee to vote with the government if Dutton seizes power.

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