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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull digs in and tells Peter Dutton to prove he's eligible to sit in Parliament

| 23.08,18. 05:12 PM |




Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull digs in and tells Peter Dutton to prove he's eligible to sit in Parliament


Photo: Mr Turnbull has cast doubt on Peter Dutton's eligibility to sit in Parliament. (ABC News: Matthew Abbott)



Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has dug in and refused to resign, saying a form of madness has overcome those in the Liberal Party who want to change leaders.


Mr Turnbull is forcing his opponents to produce a petition with 43 signatures before he will agree to another leadership vote.


If there is another vote, Mr Turnbull said it would take place at lunch time tomorrow.


The Prime Minister said he would not contest a second spill and would quit Parliament, setting up a showdown between Peter Dutton and Treasurer Scott Morrison, who has thrown his hat into the leadership ring.


Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has also joined the race, telling her colleagues she can save the most seats for the Coalition.


Earlier today, Mr Dutton, who lost Tuesday's leadership spill 48-35, said the Prime Minister no longer had the support of the party room.


Mr Turnbull waited several hours before announcing he was insisting on a petition with the names of the people calling for a new vote clearly listed.


He cast doubt on Mr Dutton's eligibility to sit in Parliament, saying he expected the Solicitor-General's advice on the issue to be available tomorrow morning.


"I cannot underline too much how important it is anyone who seeks to be the Prime Minister of Australia is eligible to be in Parliament," Mr Turnbull said.


Federal Labor has legal advice Mr Dutton might be in breach of section 44 of the constitution because of his interests in childcare businesses that receive government subsidies.


Mr Dutton has released legal advice showing he is not in breach of the constitution.


'Insurgents hard to stop'


In a swipe at predecessor Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister said:


"I've made it very clear I believe former prime ministers are best out of parliament, I don't think there's much evidence to suggest that conclusion is incorrect."


Mr Turnbull's comments exposed the level of infighting in the Coalition.


"Obviously if people want to conduct an internal insurgency they're very hard to stop," he said.


"A minority in the party room, supported by others outside the Parliament have sought to bully, intimidate others into making this change of leadership that they are seeking.


"It's been described by many people, including those who feel they cannot resist it, as a form of madness," he said.


Most of Mr Turnbull's Liberal ministers have resigned amid the leadership crisis, including former Senate leader and finance minister Mathias Cormann, trade minister Steve Ciobo and health minister Greg Hunt.


House shut down amid turmoil


The Government controversially adjourned the Lower House five hours early to avoid facing questions from the Opposition.


Labor was outraged the House was shut down.


"I said on Tuesday that this is a government which had lost the will to live," Labor leader Bill Shorten said.


"But I don't even think on Tuesday we could have seen the cannibalistic behaviour of a government who is eating itself alive."


In another sign of the disfunction, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt revealed he might refuse to serve on the frontbench if Mr Dutton became PM.


Mr Dutton boycotted the 2008 apology to the Stolen Generations and Mr Wyatt was the first Aboriginal MP in the Lower House.


"I would have to seriously think about my position," Mr Wyatt told Perth radio 6PR.


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