At a press conference, the Prime Minister said the delay in the party room meeting, until midday tomorrow (Friday), would allow time for the Solicitor-General to determine whether his challenger, Peter Dutton, is eligible to sit in parliament, because of the law about benefiting from public funds in relation to a trust owned by the Dutton family, which controls two childcare centres.
Reports have suggested that Treasurer Scott Morrison is also seeking to contest the leadership.
Mr Turnbull said that eligibility to sit in parliament is a fundamental issue, and the implications for a potential prime minister warrant the additional time to ensure the matter is dealt with conclusively.
According to Mr Turnbull, if he receives – either directly or via the media – a petition from the majority of his parliamentary colleagues seeking a second leadership spill, one would take place at tomorrow’s meeting.
But if a new spill does eventuate, he said he would take that as a vote of no confidence, and would not put his name forward for contention and instead resign from parliament altogether – which would force a by-election for the new prime minister.
By the end of Friday, we should know:
- Who will be Australia’s prime minister
- Whether Mr Dutton will remain in parliament or be ruled ineligible because of his private business interests
- Which government MPs have moved to sabotage yet another prime minister
- Whether Mr Turnbull's inner Sydney seat of Wentworth will face a by-election
- Whether the government will still command a majority in the House of Representatives, given it currently has just a one-seat majority
Meanwhile the business leaders have lambasted the government for sapping business (and consumer) confidence, which is detracting both domestically and internationally from Australia’s strong economy and opportunities for investment.