Government In Turmoil As Mass Ministry Resignations Continue
The PM could face a second threat within days.
Malcom Turnbull is bracing for a second attack on his leadership following a swathe of resignation offers from his front bench, as rival Peter Dutton ramps up his policy agenda.
At least ten ministers -- Dutton of course, followed by Michael Sukkar, Angus Taylor, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, James McGrath and Zed Seselja -- have offered to resign after supporting the attempted coup against the PM, but most were rebuffed and will remain on the front bench.
Senior cabinet ministers Steve Ciobo, Michael Keenan, Greg Hunt joined the list followed by Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge.
Liberal Deputy Leader Julie Bishop confirmed to Sky News on Wednesday morning the PM has only accepted the offers from the home affairs minister and International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who wrote a letter criticising the Liberal Party for moving too far to the left.
"My conservative base has been very concerned about the direction of the government. We are bleeding votes to the right," she said on Wednesday, saying she was yet to speak with the PM.
"I think it's very important for a government, particularly a Coalition government, to have the appropriate balance of moderate and conservatives."
Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar offered his resignation after voting for Dutton in the spill, along with Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath.
Bishop said a number of people who voted against Turnbull had since reconsidered their decision.
The flurry of resignations throws the Turnbull ministry into chaos, with no apparent ready replacements for many of the experienced heads. It will further weaken Turnbull's position, with a chunk of his trusted close team essentially signalling no confidence in his leadership.
But it's not all bad news for Turnbull, with some of his supporters rallying.
At least three Nationals MPs, including Veteran Affairs Minister Darren Chester, are threatening to quit the Coalition and sit on the cross bench if Dutton becomes Liberal leader.
"All options are on the table in a volatile environment," Chester told The ABC.
"There's no reason why any potential challenger, whoever that may be, should assume that they can command numbers on the floor of the House of Representatives, given we have a one-seat majority."
Under that remarkable possibility, the Coalition would no longer boast the necessary numbers to retain government, essentially forcing an election to find out which party can claim office.
It also remains unclear if the motley House cross bench -- Bob Katter, Rebekah Sharkie, Andrew Wilkie, Cathy McGowan and Greens MP Adam Bandt -- could be relied on to guarantee supply.
Turnbull has previously said he would consider leaving parliament if ousted from the top job. A by-election in Wentworth would also complicate matters in any change of leader.
Tuesday night's developments have thrown a spanner in the works for both men locked in a battle for the leadership. Turnbull is suddenly on the lookout for new ministers, while Dutton is faced with a headache that he could win the Liberal leadership but immediately lose government.