Conservatives want Dutton to topple Turnbull within weeks

CONSERVATIVE MPs are urging Peter Dutton to seize the leadership from Malcolm Turnbull within weeks on a policy platform of lower immigration and cheaper energy bills.

The move comes as momentum is growing among MPs angry at the Prime Minister's signature energy policy, with 10 threatening to cross the floor and several ministers considering resigning over the issue which has divided the Liberal Party for the past decade.

Mr Turnbull is promising to take a "big stick" to power companies in a bid to stem growing dissent on the backbench for his signature energy policy.

 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton pass each other at the opening of the Australian Cyber Security Centre in Canberra on Thursday.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton pass each other at the opening of the Australian Cyber Security Centre in Canberra on Thursday.

Despite two days of crisis meetings at least five MPs remain steadfast in their plan to vote against the National Energy Guarantee unless the government walks away from legislating the Paris Agreement on emissions reduction.

Amid this upheaval, conservative MPs are urging Mr Dutton, the Home Affairs Minister, to seize the leadership in the next few weeks.

They say there needs to be a correction of policy direction after the shock primary vote of just 30 per cent in the ­recent by-election in the Queensland seat of Longman, when the party needs to be above 40 per cent to be in a winnable position.

Mr Dutton is being urged to challenge Mr Turnbull's leadership on a policy platform of lower immigration levels and a new energy policy focusing on cheaper bills rather than lowering emissions.

Conservative MPs told The Daily Telegraph a "torn" Mr Dutton was considering his options.

One source said that Mr Dutton would not stand by and accept losing his seat as the government tanks.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton refused to publicly criticise the Prime Minister’s energy stance on Thursday. Picture: Kym Smith
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton refused to publicly criticise the Prime Minister’s energy stance on Thursday. Picture: Kym Smith

"There are only two good outcomes here - either the energy policy is dead and we can go to the election fighting Labor on it, or Malcolm goes," the MP said.

Mr Dutton yesterday took the extraordinary step of publicly signalling concerns with the National Energy Guarantee, offering only a lukewarm assessment.

In the interview on 2GB, Mr Dutton also did not launch a defence of Mr Turnbull as Prime Minister when host Ray Hadley advocated for a change in leadership.

Instead Mr Dutton spoke about his own portfolio and said he was going to do his best to "turn these polls around" and vowed to "fight til election day and beyond" to stop Bill Shorten from ­becoming Prime Minister.

"I do the best that I can in my portfolio. I think we kick some pretty good goals in this portfolio," he said.

"We don't get everything right, but I think we've done a good job and I want to make sure that I can be a part of restoring our fortunes, making sure that we're in a winning position by the time of the next election and I'm not going to deviate from that path."

PM Malcolm Turnbull at the Opening of the Australian Cyber Security Centre on Thursday. Picture Kym Smith
PM Malcolm Turnbull at the Opening of the Australian Cyber Security Centre on Thursday. Picture Kym Smith

Mr Dutton said he would not criticise Mr Turnbull publicly and any disagreements on policy were in private.

"Now, if my position changes - that is, it gets to a point where I can't accept what the government's proposing or I don't agree - then the Westminster system is very clear; you resign your commission, you don't serve in that Cabinet and you make that very clear in a respectful way," he said.

Liberal Senator Jim Molan. Picture: Gary Ramage
Liberal Senator Jim Molan. Picture: Gary Ramage
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Kym Smith
Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg. Picture: Kym Smith

Mr Dutton also did not support the NEG when asked if it was "suboptimal" - a term used by Liberal colleague Jim Molan in an interview with Sky News.

"The Prime Minister, like all of us, wants to see power prices reduced for businesses, for households, for pensioners and the government's come up with a policy and we believe that that's the best policy available to us," he said.

Mr Turnbull, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg have been in urgent talks to come up with an "extreme" plan to appease the rebel MPs before Tuesday's party room meeting.



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