Australia PM Malcolm Turnbull clinging on amid fresh leadership challenge threat

Australian PM rejects Cabinet resignations as new challenge looms

Former home affairs minister Peter Dutton, an ex-police officer and right-winger, has been the driving force behind the move to unseat Turnbull after a party backlash against his more moderate approach to politics.

Dutton needs to prove he has majority backing, or 43 signatures from within the party's parliamentary group - a requirement for him to force a second crack at the top job ahead of national elections due by mid-2019.

Beleaguered 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.

The showdown is on, with Julie Bishop and Scott Morrison ready to run against Peter Dutton for the Liberal leadership and Malcolm Turnbull all but certain to call a spill at midday.

He won Tuesday's internal party ballot against Dutton by just 48 votes to 35. I have never done that.

He accused a minority in the party room and others outside parliament of trying "to bully, intimidate others into making this change of leadership that they're seeking".

Dutton has released legal advice that his family's ownership of two child-care centers that received federal funding does not breach a constitutional ban on lawmakers having a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the public service.

Opposition lawmakers reacted with outrage when the government shut down Parliament hours early so that Liberal Party lawmakers could focus on their leadership crisis.

An image of Peter Dutton's shadowed face that has triggered comparisons with Darth Vader, prompted this from Gillard: "Something tells me that we will be seeing a bit of that photo in the future".

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Turnbull's tenuous grip on power was under intense pressure Thursday with the man who wants his job launching a second leadership challenge in a week and senior ministers defecting.

Malcolm Turnbull speaking to media at Parliament House in Canberra yesterday.

Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was suddenly replaced during his first term by his deputy, Julia Gillard, who was replaced three years later by Rudd.

The tactic of swapping leaders in the hope of boosting governments' standing in opinion polls as elections loom has left parties bitterly divided.

"The Liberal Party, whatever it does today and tomorrow, is irreparably split", Shorten said. "I'm sorry. You deserve better than numerous things our Federal Parliament has served up to you for the past 10 years", wrote Nationals MP Darren Chester, whose party is in a coalition with the Liberals.

Australians often talk about voting for a political leader to become prime minister in the same way that Americans discuss electing a president.

"This issue of eligibility is critically important", he said, with the solicitor-general looking into it.

A NEW poll shows WA MP Julie Bishop would easily be the people's choice as Prime Minister to Labor leader Bill Shorten.

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