Australian government moves to adjourn Parliament as PM Turnbull's leadership looks doomed

Australian government moves to adjourn Parliament as PM Turnbull's leadership looks doomed

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull demanded the names of lawmakers in the conservative Liberal Party who wanted him to go before he would allow them to choose a new prime minister at a meeting at Parliament House on Friday.

Finance minister Mr Cormann had publicly supported Mr Turnbull on Wednesday, but on Thursday said Mr Dutton should lead the government.

"If the motion is carried, I will treat that as a vote of no confidence and I will not stand as a candidate in the ballot".

Treasurer Scott Morrison also pledged to challenge for the top job, local media reported.

If that meeting calls for a leadership ballot -which is a likely outcome considering senior party members have indicated so -Turnbull said he will quit Parliament.

The three leadership aspirants - Peter Dutton, Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison - are still waiting for the Solicitor-General to decide whether Mr Dutton is even eligible to sit in Parliament.

The internecine Liberal Party strife has been a boon for the opposition Labor Party, who find themselves in the enviable position of having to do little more before the next election than sit back and watch their opponents crumble.

Dutton was ultimately unsuccessful in the first instance, but the fact he only lost by a small margin 48-35 was considered by many as a fatal wound for Turnbull.

"I don't take that for granted, and I will do my very best to act out that role as deputy in support of the Coalition delivering good government for the Australian people".

"I can not 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 - because a minister, let alone a prime minister, who is not eligible to sit in the House is not capable of validly being a minister or exercising any of the powers of a minister".

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Dutton supporters were circulating a petition of Liberal MPs calling on Mr Turnbull to call another party room meeting on Wednesday night.

Any chance Malcolm Turnbull had of hanging on quickly collapsed this morning when ministers Matthias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash fronted media to say they could no longer support the PM.

The resignations were widely seen as pressure on Turnbull to call on a party meeting or to step down.

Australian newspapers echoed the frustration many voters feel over the constant leadership changes.

Zed Seselja, a Dutton supporter who has resigned as a Turnbull government minister, estimated 40 had signed the petition by late Thursday.

"Earlier this week in the Nationals party room were discussing how to help farmers, the drought and emergency services workers, while the Liberals were talking about leadership changes", he said.

"Australians will be rightly appalled by what they're witnessing in their nation's parliament today and in the course of this week", Mr Turnbull told reporters. The vote to refer Dutton to the High Court was defeated 69-68 in the House of Representatives before it adjourned.

Further political instability is now all but guaranteed in the final two days of parliament's sitting before it breaks until September, potentially upsetting Australia's financial markets.

The government does not have a majority in the Senate, which has not been shut down.