Australian government shuts down parliament

The Australian government has taken the drastic step of closing down parliament in the midst of an internal leadership crisis that could potentially unseat Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The move comes days after an attempted leadership spill, led by former home affairs minister Peter Dutton, reportedly with the help of former prime minister Tony Abbott, who himself was ousted from leadership by Turnbull in 2016.

Turnbull faced the media following the adjournment of parliament, and indicated that he would call a party room meeting at midday (3am in the UK) on Friday.

“In terms of my own intentions, when the party room meeting is called, I will invite a spill motion to be moved. If the motion is carried, I will treat that as a vote of no confidence and I will not stand as a candidate in the ballot,” Turnbull said.

Turnbull also indicated that he would resign from parliament entirely, in the event he is removed from office.

Peter Dutton and treasurer Scott Morrison (a long-time supporter of Turnbull) have emerged as the most likely candidates to take over as prime minister, should Turnbull step aside tomorrow, the ABC says.

Complicating matters are two things. Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament is currently under a cloud over his family’s ownership of several childcare centres that have been receiving government funding, contrary to the Australian constitution.

Secondly, Dutton is facing a senate inquiry following “allegations concerning the inappropriate exercise of ministerial powers with respect to the visa status of au pairs”, The Guardian says.