Turnbull takes aim at Dutton’s ‘bullying and intimidation’
A DEFIANT Malcolm Turnbull has taken aim at Peter Dutton’s supporters, saying he has been subject to “bullying and intimidation” within his own party.
In a press conference this afternoon, the embattled Prime Minister took a dig at a “minority” of Liberals, supported by vocal outsiders, criticising their methods in trying to unseat him as leader.
“A minority in the party room supported by others outside the parliament have sought to bully, intimidate others into making this change of leadership that they’re seeking,” Mr Turnbull said.
“It’s been described by many people — including those who feel they cannot resist it — as a form of madness.”
Mr Turnbull made the dig at his detractors as he announced he would not give up the top job until he had been handed a letter proving a majority of the party room wanted him gone.
Fronting a raucous media pack at Parliament House, the PM made it clear he would resist his “bullies” for as long as it his leadership remained viable.
Mr Turnbull said once he received the letter — “if I receive it” — he would hold a party room meeting at noon tomorrow in which the leadership would be spilled.
If there was an indication he did not have the support of the majority of his MPs, Mr Turnbull said he would not stand for the leadership, and would therefore cease to serve as PM and resign from parliament.
“What we have witnessed at the moment is a very deliberate effort to pull the Liberal Party further to the Right, and that’s been stated by the number of people who have ben involved in this,” he said.
“I just say that what began as a minority has, by a process of intimidation, persuaded people that the only way to stop the insurgency is to give in to it.”
Mr Turnbull made it clear he was not among those who would be pushed to give in.
“I do not believe in that. I have never done that,” he said.
“I have never given in to bullies, but you can imagine the pressure it’s put people under.”
The PM did not only take aim at his prospective opponents’ supporters, but at Mr Dutton himself.
Referring to the constitutional cloud that has gathered over his would-be successor in recent days, Mr Turnbull said it Mr Dutton’s eligibility was a “very, very significant point”.
“I cannot 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,” he said.
“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. So you can understand how important this issue is.”
Parliament is awaiting advice from the Solicitor-General, who Mr Turnbull said was working to complete his advice.
“Of course we don’t know what he’ll say, but that advice at least will mean the party room is informed and indeed Mr Dutton is informed. That may impact on his decision to run or not,” he said.
Mr Turnbull confirmed that if a spill motion was carried, he would treat it as a vote of no confidence and would not stand as a candidate. He has previously made clear that if he lost the leadership he would not remain in Parliament, and doubled down on this statement today adding a last-ditch insult to former prime minister Tony Abbott.
“I made it very clear that I believe former prime ministers are best out of the Parliament,” he said.