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Australia political crisis deepens after 10 ministers offer resignation

  • Martin Parry

    Agence France-Presse

Sydney, Australia | Wed, August 22, 2018 | 01:56 pm
 Australia political crisis deepens after 10 ministers offer resignation In this May 29, 2016, file photo, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, left, speaks as opposition leader Bill Shorten listens at a leaders' debate at the National Press Club in Canberra. Opinion polls suggest the conservative coalition government remains neck-and-neck with the center-left Labor Party opposition since the July 2, 2016 election was officially called early in May, despite efforts by both sides to break out with a range of policy announcements. (Associated Press/Tracey Nearmy)

At least 10 ministers have offered their resignations as a leadership crisis in Australian politics deepened Wednesday with another challenge against Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appearing inevitable.

The embattled leader narrowly survived a move to unseat him by his populist Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday with a Liberal party ballot voting 48-35 in his favour.

It came to a head after months of poor opinion polls and a revolt by fellow Liberal politicians on Monday against his plans to embed carbon emissions targets in law at a time of soaring power prices.

Despite Turnbull's win, it laid bare that dozens of his own MPs do not want him as their leader, and Dutton worked the phones and blitzed the airwaves Wednesday to shore up more support for another widely-expected crack at the top job. 

Dutton quit his cabinet position after his failed leadership bid, with at least nine other ministers also offering to go, according to a tally by broadcasters ABC and Sky News. They include the health minister and trade minister, both frontbenchers. 

Turnbull has so far only accepted two resignations -- Dutton and International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells -- and insisted Wednesday the others had since "given me unequivocal assurances of continuing loyalty and support".

But buoyed by his support, Dutton, seen as a more hardline conservative that the moderate Turnbull, worked to soften his perceived tough guy image earned as home affairs and immigration minister, in media interviews in which he laid out his policy agenda.

The former police officer, who admits he rarely smiles, made no secret of still wanting to run the country.

"I'm speaking to colleagues, I'm not going to beat around the bush with that, mate," he told commercial radio station 3AW on again attempting to dump Turnbull.

"That's being very honest and upfront with you and that's how I see it." 

He added that he thinks he could win an election -- due by the middle of next year -- as leader against Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten.

"I would never run for the leadership not believing that I could beat Bill Shorten," added the 47-year-old.

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