Fri, Aug 24, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Turnbull vows to counter ‘bullies’

PLOT TWIST:Ministers Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop, both Turnbull’s allies, said they might stand for prime minister in a bid to counter Peter Dutton’s power grab

AFP, SYDNEY

Australian Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield, center left, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, center, and Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash, center right, yesterday in Canberra announce their support for former minister of home affairs Peter Dutton as prime minister.

Photo: EPA

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull yesterday vowed not to “give in to bullies” in the face of a new leadership challenge, but said he would quit politics if his party no longer supports him.

Former Australian minister of home affairs Peter Dutton said he was confident he now had the numbers to unseat Turnbull.

With senior ministers defecting, Turnbull’s near three-year grip on power is tenuous, despite surviving a snap ballot on his leadership on Tuesday.

Turnbull said that Dutton had yet to prove he has majority backing from the Liberal Party — a requirement for him to force another meeting to have a second crack at the top job ahead of national elections due by the middle of next year.

If the petition arrives showing this, the meeting would be held midday today and Turnbull would not stand as a candidate and leave parliament.

Turnbull accused Dutton and his supporters of intimidation with the crisis snowballing quickly since it began unfolding on Monday after months of poor opinion polls and a revolt by fellow Liberal politicians over plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law.

“What began as a minority has by a process of intimidation persuaded people that the only way to stop the insurgency is to give in to it,” he said. “I do not believe in that. I have never done that. I have never given in to bullies, but you can imagine the pressure it’s put people under.”

He added that what Australia was witnessing was “a very deliberate effort to pull the Liberal Party further to the right.”

Dutton earlier told reporters he had advised Turnbull that “it was my judgement that the majority of the party room no longer supported his leadership.”

“As such, I asked him to convene a meeting of the Liberal Party, at which I would challenge for the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party,” he added.

In a major blow, Australian Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, along with the employment and education ministers, said Turnbull no longer had their backing.

They joined at least 10 other ministers who have either resigned or offered to.

“It is in the best interests of the Liberal Party to help manage an orderly transition to a new leader,” Cormann said.

In a plot twist, the Australian Broadcasting Co and Sky News reported that Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, both Turnbull allies, might also stand in a leadership ballot in a bid to derail Dutton’s power grab.

Complicating matters, it has emerged that Dutton has financial interests in childcare centers that get government subsidies — possibly breaching constitutional rules — and Turnbull suggested he might not be eligible to sit in parliament, let alone be prime minister.

“This issue of eligibility is critically important,” he said, with the solicitor-general looking into it.

Dutton, described by supporters as a pragmatic legislator and by detractors as a racist who demonizes refugees, has said he has legal advice that he is in the clear.

Dutton and his camp have also made clear that keeping power prices down was more important than meeting Canberra’s commitment to slash carbon emissions by 26 percent by 2030.

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