SYDNEY—Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will stand for the leadership of the ruling Liberal party, local media reported on Aug. 23, after several ministers tendered their resignations and left Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull clinging to power.
Turnbull narrowly won a leadership vote on Aug. 21 against the former home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, and on Aug. 23 offered to hold a second vote on Aug. 24 if he received a letter signed by the majority of the Liberal party.
Key Turnbull supporter Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Turnbull no longer had majority party support and that Dutton was now the best person to lead the conservative government to the next election, due by May 2019.
Several ministers have tendered their resignation. The leadership crisis saw the government adjourn parliament on Aug. 23 until September.
Treasurer Scott Morrison will also challenge for the top job in any leadership vote, local media reported earlier. Morrison has been a Turnbull supporter but has reportedly long held ambitions on the prime ministership.
Bishop, who is the current foreign minister, has been deputy leader of the Liberal Party since 2007.
Whoever emerges as Australia’s next prime minister, they will become the country’s sixth prime minister in less than a decade. None of those, which includes two stints for Labor leader Kevin Rudd, have served a full term in office.
“Australians will be rightly appalled by what they are witnessing in their parliament,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.
Turnbull sort to raise doubts over Dutton’s ability to continue sitting in parliament, with reports he has financial interests in daycare centers which receive government funding.
Australia’s constitution bans lawmakers benefiting from commonwealth money.
Turnbull said he asked Australia’s most senior legal officer to provide advice on Dutton’s eligibility on Friday morning.
“I cannot underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of parliament,” said Turnbull.
Adding pressure on rebel lawmakers, Turnbull said he would resign from parliament if he loses the leadership, threatening the government’s one-seat majority.
Turnbull came to power in a party-room coup in September 2015. A social liberal and multi-millionaire former merchant banker, Turnbull has struggled to appeal to conservative voters and only narrowly won an election in 2016.
The ruling Liberal-National coalition government has consistently trailed the opposition Labor party in opinion polls, but Turnbull has remained the voters’ preferred prime minister over Labor leader Bill Shorten.
Shorten said the “cannibalistic behavior” over the Liberal leadership was eating the government alive. “Australia no longer has a functioning government,” he told parliament.
Reporting by John Mair, Swati Pandey, Sonali Paul, Colin Packham and Wayne Cole