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Aug 23, 2018

Turnbull's day of reckoning as challengers seek numbers for spill – politics live | Australia news I The Guardian

Martin Farrer

Look, it’s almost certain you’re going to have a new prime minister today. You don’t get to vote, of course, but you still ought to know who the candidates are. Luckily, we’ve got you covered.

How might Australia’s Indigenous and migrant populations react to a Peter Dutton prime ministership?
Dutton was one of only a handful of MPs who boycotted Kevin Rudd’s apology for the stolen generations in 2008.
He’s also made incendiary comments about particular migrant groups and crime in Australia. In 2016 he suggested the former prime minister Malcolm Fraser made mistakes “bringing some people in”, in reference to Lebanese-Muslim Australians.
Yesterday, my colleagues and I heard from some members of those communities, some of whom said they were “deeply worried” at the prospect of him leading the nation.
Read the piece here.

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Earlier Ben Morton said he thought he may have been the 43rd name. It seems certain now that one way or another we’re going to have this midday spill meeting.
Andrew Probyn (@andrewprobyn)
#breaking Queensland Liberal Warren Entsch has indicated he will be the 43rd signature to the leadership petition – but only if it needed. ABC understands he has repeatedly refused to sign the petitions but will add his name if it will break the deadlock. #libspill @politicsabc
August 23, 2018

Just back to that Cormann interview on Sky. He seemed less than enthusiastic about Dutton’s key policy platform: removing GST from power bills.
You’ll remember Cormann stood next to Scott Morrison only two days ago when the Treasurer said the policy would be a “budget blower”.
Asked about the policy Cormann said Dutton had made “certain comments as a backbench member of parliament” and that if he was elected it would be “discussed through normal cabinet processes”.
That seems like code for, yeah, probably not.
Cormann also said that whoever becomes leader would honour the government’s previous commitments on GST. That’s a big deal for Western Australia.

It’s not often that the Aussie dollar is the main story on foreign exchange markets but today is the exception. The currency has suffered a 1.4% fall in the past 24 hours as investors have taken fright at the instability in Canberra.
As market analyst Greg McKenna says this morning, it’s not often that Australian politics moves the dollar – which is more senstive to overseas factors – but this time it’s different. Greg writes on
All I can say is what a shambles. And I guess I have to say that my comments this week that politics doesn’t usually upset Australian markets was wrong. It’s usually been the case over my career that it doesn’t matter to trader. But I guess in a world of Trump, Brexit, Putin, Erdogan, Duterte and many other populist leaders the type of instability and lurch in policy Dutton has already articulated, combined with the reality that the whole world knows this will be Rudd-Gillard-Rudd-Abbott-Turnbull-Dutton/Morrison/Bishop has simply given the bears the whip hand on a day the USD was doing better anyway. So the path of least resistance for the Aussie was lower.
This chart shows what Greg means. The initial ructions in Canberra didn’t really affect the dollar too much. But in the past 24 hours you can see it’s lost quite a lot of ground as the leadership spill has dragged on (the timings on this chart are in BST). Markets never like uncertainty and the dollar is paying the price.
Australian dollar over past five days.
Australian dollar over past five days. Photograph: Yahoo Finance

Michael Kroger, the Liberal president for Victoria, has just confirmed state party directors had dinner last night and decided that party president Nick Greiner would contact Turnbull to say they want the leadership issue resolved today.
Greiner has now done that. Kroger won’t say what Turnbull’s response was.
There’s no reason why this meeting shouldn’t be held. Meetings have been held [with] two signatures.
Greiner doesn’t say whether or not they have the 43 signatures, but the heads of the party want the meeting anyway to resolve the leadership saga.
He says he’s sure that “reflects the views of Liberal party members around the country”.

Senior Liberal senator Mathias Cormann is being interviewed on Sky News. Cormann’s resignation from the frontbench yesterday was really the end of Malcolm Turnbull’s government, given his sway in the party.
He reconfirmed he’ll be supporting Peter Dutton for leader in the event of a party room meeting. He says he “would have preferred” if Turnbull had called the meeting earlier, but he’s “very confident” it will take place today.
Cormann says he’s backing Dutton because he’s the candidate “best able to connect with hard working, aspirational families in Australia”.
Peter Dutton connects very well to hard-working, aspirational Australians ... he will be able to reconnect with the Howard battlers [and] bring them back into Liberal fold. He knows what it takes.
On section 44 questions, Cormann says he’s confident Dutton is eligible to be in the parliament.
Peter Dutton is a validly elected member of parliament ... childcare benefits are benefits for parents childcare centres do not provide services to the commonwealth.

Am I the only one who feels like yesterday took on a vaguely Beckettian vibe after Turnbull declared he would only hold a party room meeting if the Dutton forces could cobble together 43 signatures on a piece of paper?
We then spent the day waiting around for a petition we were sure was going to arrive but never did.
But last night the conservative ACT senator Zed Seselja – one of the group of ministers who have resigned their posts – said the petition had “over 40” signatures and was “around about the mark” of the 43 signatures required to force a spill.
You can read Katharine Murphy and Paul Karp’s account of yesterday’s events here.

OK, this is significant. West Australian Liberal Ben Morton has just said he thinks he might be the 43rd signature on the petition.
“I could be the last person having to sign it,” were his exact words.
Morton was stopped on his way into parliament. He’s thrown his support behind Tthe treasurer, Scott Morrison.
The signing of the petition is doing one thing and one thing only, calling a meeting to resolve this issue ... it’s the right thing to do because this issue needs to be resolved.
I’m not supporting the particular candidate who is circulating the petition ... I thought about this overnight, talked to colleagues, friends, I’ve spoken to people in my electorate. They want to see certainty, they want to see the government of Australia get back to governing.
Morton said there was only “one person” who he believed could unite the Liberal party – Scott Morrison.
I’ve known him a long period of time. I’ve seen him work in close quarters as treasurer of this nation, he has the breadth of experience needed to unite the party [and] to be prime minister. That is my view and I feel it should be shared.

Christopher Pyne’s just been interviewed on his way into parliament. Pyne’s a Turnbull loyalist, and had a little bit to say about the Dutton camp. He was asked whether Turnbull should stay in the parliament even if he loses the leadership, and said he isn’t about to tell the prime minister what to do.
I don’t think that people can expect to be telling Malcolm Turnbull what to do. He’s run an excellent government for three years, a growing economy, records job, balancing the budget yet that hasn’t been good enough for some of his colleagues in the parliamentary party. I’m not about to tell Malcolm Turnbull to do anything other than what he wants to do.
I think some people in caucus should have considered the greater good of the people of Australia and the government rather than their own self-interest mission.

Aussie dollar battered overnight

Well, this is intriguing. From the Herald Sun’s chief of staff.
Paul Tatnell (@PaulTatnell)
Julie Bishop's partner David Panton tonight, who is attending the Myer runway series in Sydney, when asked who will win #libspill
"You're heard it straight from the horse's mouth - by tomorrow at lunch time Julie Bishop will definately be Prime Minister," he told @AnnaHeraldSun
August 23, 2018

Peter Dutton has released advice he received from the former solicitor general David Bennett overnight. The advice, of course, relates to his eligibility to stand in parliament.
If you’re playing catch up, take a look at Paul Karp’s wrap up of the issue here. The question here relates to whether Dutton’s childcare business interests might disqualify him from being in parliament, and thus being a candidate for leadership.
The Bennett advice argues Dutton does not have a case to answer to the high court because his family trust does not have any agreement with the commonwealth.
“Mr Dutton is not rendered ineligible by Section 44(v) by virtue of these facts.”
Which, look, I’m not a lawyer so I’m not about to make any “the high court shall so hold” type statements. Turnbull’s said he wants to see the solicitor general’s advice on the issue before the putative midday party room meeting. It’s unclear if it will arrive in time, but that’s the advice that will really matter.
Labor’s previously released advice by barrister Bret Walker SC arguing the “preferable argument” is that Dutton is ineligible because he may have an “indirect pecuniary interest” in an agreement with the commonwealth.
Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton_MP)
This advice is in addition to my original advice from Guy Reynolds SC which also confirmed I was not in breach of s.44(v).
Mr Bennett’s unequivocal advice puts to rest the spurious & unsubstantiated allegations raised against by eligibility. 3/3
August 23, 2018

Liberal MP Tim Wilson is speaking on the ABC. He’s suggested the tactics of the Peter Dutton camp have not been totally above board. You’ll remember there’s been some talk of intimidation of MPs.
Scott Buchholz just mentioned the pressure he’s been under to sign the petition that’s circulating Parliament House.
I’ve said at every point that I think Peter [Dutton] is a decent and honourable man, and somebody I have a high degree of trust and respect for. That won’t change. There are other people surrounding him who have been involved in this, and I don’t think their tactics have been appropriate. I don’t think the tactics of all sides have been appropriate, frankly. I’m on this program to say some of us get it and some are behaving like responsible adults.

Queensland MP Scott Buchholz has just been talking to Sky News. Buchholz has previously declared himself a Turnbull supporter, but this morning he’s called on the prime minister to bring on the party room meeting without the list of 43 names.
He says he’s being “pressured beyond comprehension” to sign the list, but won’t because of fears of repercussions.
“I suggest that that list in time will be used in a symbolic way to suggest – similar to Brutus [and] Caesar – of those who knifed a PM. That is not my intent.”


Windows have been smashed at Peter Dutton’s electorate office in Dickson overnight, Queensland police say.
As he prepares for d-day in Canberra, his electorate staff will be sweeping up glass.
Damaged glass windows are seen at the electorate office of Peter Dutton in the suburb of Strathpine, north of Brisbane.
Damaged glass windows are seen at the electorate office of Peter Dutton in the suburb of Strathpine, north of Brisbane. Photograph: Darren England/AAP
Brick pavers were thrown at the office on Gympie Road in Strathpine about 1.45am on Friday, causing what they called “extensive damage”. Detectives are appealing for information about the incident. They say four reinforced glass windows and two glass doors were smashed.

Good morning and welcome to the day in politics. It’s Michael McGowan here. I’ll be keeping you up to speed with developments in Canberra until Christopher Knaus takes over later this morning.
All the focus today will be on whether the petition Peter Dutton’s backers have been circulating for the last two days can reach the magic number 43, after Malcolm Turnbull imposed a midday deadline yesterday.
To recap on events from last night:
  • The Malcolm Turnbull-imposed deadline for the party room meeting is midday. Turnbull said yesterday that he’ll only hold the meeting (and therefore allow a spill for the leadership) if he is presented with the petition of 43 signatures, a majority of the party. Dutton’s camp were saying last night that they think they’re close to that number.
  • The possible contenders so far are Scott Morrison, Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop. That is liable to change. The numbers were being worked late into the night. Our latest word yesterday was that Morrison was slightly ahead of Bishop as the alternative candidate to Dutton.
  • Either way, it’s likely that Turnbull is all but done. The fatal blow was delivered by Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield on Thursday morning when they abandoned him. If the spill is called, Turnbull will take it as a vote of no-confidence in his leadership and step aside.
  • He’s suggested he would leave parliament if that happened, which puts Dutton in a difficult position, because it triggers a byelection and jeopardises the Coalition’s razor thin majority in the lower house.
  • A crucial piece to this puzzle is Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament. Turnbull wants the solicitor general’s advice on Dutton’s case before the party room before the leadership spill. It’s unclear whether that advice will arrive in time. Dutton’s camp thinks he’s in the clear, and have their own legal advice to support that position. Leading constitutional lawyers disagree. They think there’s a serious question to be answered by Dutton. Only parliament can refer him to the high court but the issue might be enough to create doubt and anxiety in Liberal ranks.
  • Don’t forget those crossbenchers and rogue Nationals, either. Darren Chester, a Nat, is still not saying whether he would guarantee confidence and supply to a Dutton government. Other crossbenchers are making similar statements. The Coalition has a one-seat majority.

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