Beleaguered Australian PM Turnbull clings to power

Scott Morrison

"This is a very, very significant point", Mr Turnbull said.

Turnbull narrowly won a leadership vote on Tuesday against former home affairs minister Peter Dutton.

"Today I received advice from former SG David Bennett AC QC which clearly states I am eligible to sit as a Member of Parliament", Mr Dutton tweeted.

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

Mr. Turnbull confirmed he had asked eight ministers to stay on in his ministry despite their offers to stand down.

It doesn't. It is already within a whisker of becoming a minority government, a prospect that is likely if Peter Dutton comes prime minister and there is resulting movement from the government to the crossbenches.

"It's important that before the party meeting is held we have access to the advice of the solicitor general on the eligibility of Mr Dutton to sit in the parliament and we expect that advice to be available first thing in the morning", Turnbull said.

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Gillard held her cards close to her chest about who she believed would be the next Coalition leader, but she intimated that she didn't think Turnbull's chances looked good.

If Turnbull steps down, it would result in a by-election that could cost the government its single-seat majority or spur his replacement to immediately call a general election.

Three contenders are battling to replace Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the crisis over the Liberal Party leadership.

The land mine was just one Malcolm Turnbull laid down as he bunkered down and refused to surrender. The vote to refer Dutton to the High Court was defeated 69-68 in the House of Representatives before it adjourned.

The opposition argued that the government wanted to avoid question time, a daily period when the prime minister and ministers answer opposition questions for more than an hour.

"Another day and another one of chaos from this government - a government that has effectively stopped governing because it's too busy fighting itself", said deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek. It is hard to escape the conclusion that it is time the voters were given a say.

To put it simply the conservatives slammed the National Energy Guarantee as insufficient to lower power bills, leading Turnbull to go from proposing an energy reduction target of 26 percent to just scrapping the plan altogether in order to save his leadership.

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The whole Dutton-for-PM campaign may not have erupted this week but for Mr Turnbull's ambush on Tuesday where, at a regular partyroom meeting, he spilled the leadership position. The names would provide proof that a majority of his government had abandoned him.

While this predictable political push for an early election appears unlikely to succeed, the expected demise of the Turnbull government is likely to see another major ministerial reshuffle, with supporters of the successful candidates likely to win key cabinet portfolios.

The political in-fighting continues in the Liberal party room.

"I'm speaking to colleagues", Mr Dutton told 3AW Radio.

It's now impossible to see how Mr Turnbull can avoid a special party meeting, as more MPs urged him to bring it on and resolve the issue once and for all.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will stand for the leadership, local media reported.

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