Prime Minister Calls Snap Contest for Party Leadership, Survives the Vote

August 20, 2018 Updated: August 21, 2018

Malcolm Turnbull remains prime minister after defeating Peter Dutton in a snap leadership spill by a vote of 48 to 35.

Turnbull declared the leadership of the Liberal party vacant on the morning of Aug. 21, challenging opponents to contest the position. Home Affairs Minister Dutton was the only contender.

Dutton, who lost the ballot by seven votes, has since resigned from the ministry and will now sit on the backbench, Sky News reports. A cabinet shuffle is now due, with a number of frontbenchers expected to move to the backbench, according to AAP.

It has been confirmed that Treasurer Scott Morrison will also now take the Department of Home Affairs under his belt as a temporary solution.

Turnbull’s position remains in jeopardy despite surviving Dutton’s leadership challenge.

“We’ve seen it so often in Australian politics—this two-stage act play in removing a prime minister—and, given how close the vote was, there’s definitely more to come,” said Haydon Manning, a political science professor at Flinders University in South Australia.

Australia Peter Dutton
Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton speaks at the opening of the Counter Terrorism Conference at being held during the one-off summit of 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Sydney, Australia, March 17, 2018. (Rick Rycroft/Pool via Reuters/File photo)

A Look At History

In February 2015, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott survived a motion to spill the leadership by a vote of 61 to 39. Seven months later Malcolm Turnbull toppled Abbott, winning 54 votes to 44, becoming Australia’s 29th prime minister.

Julia Gillard, in February 2012, won her first leadership challenge, defeating Kevin Rudd 71 votes to 31. The following year, she won another uncontested leadership ballot in March, before finally being defeated by Rudd in June, by a vote of 57 to 45.

Back in the 1990s, Bob Hawke won his first ballot against Paul Keating 66 votes to 44 in 1991, before being defeated by him in a second spill later that year by a vote of 56 to 51.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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