Turnbull survives leadership contest but battle far from over

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could have leadership spill on his hands

MICHAEL MASTERS GETTY IMAGES Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull could have leadership spill on his hands

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull survived a leadership challenge Tuesday, defeating a senior minister in an internal government ballot that is unlikely to settle questions of his support.

Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop said she was confident Mr Turnbull would stay in the job before Australians go to the polls by May 2019. "Now there's a call for nominations".

Dutton immediately resigned from the home affairs super ministry, moving to the backbench where he will not be constrained by cabinet solidarity which has seen him lock in reluctantly behind Turnbull's position on the national energy guarantee and tax cuts for big business.

Dutton put his hand up to challenge Turnbull for the top job after the PM's risky move to take control of the party.

35 Liberal MPs - a significant chunk - voted for Peter Dutton in a surprise vote Turnbull called.

So why should Tony Abbott allow that settlement?

"He has given me his absolute support", Turnbull said of Dutton.

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Speaking outside of Parliament House in Canberra, following the vote, Turnbull urged his colleagues to show "unity".

Labor's Kevin Rudd became the second Australian prime minister to be dumped while in office when Julia Gillard rolled him in 2010 just before an election.

On August 18, he tweeted: "In relation to media stories today, just to make very clear, the Prime Minister has my support and I support the policies of the Government".

But Treasurer Scott Morrison said was "fully supportive" of the Prime Minister.

Gary Spence, LNP president in Queensland, urged federal MPs to replace Mr Turnbull with Mr Dutton, arguing he would do better at defending the Coalition's nine marginal seats in the state.

On Monday, Mr Turnbull attempted to blunt conflict within the government by abandoning plans to set an emissions reduction target in legislation.

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