“The Herald Sun understands Peter Dutton has reached 43 names and the petition will be presented to the Prime Minister tomorrow morning calling for a leadership spill”, runs the one indication I am aware of that the Peter Dutton camp did not in fact spend last night butting its collective head against a ceiling of 40 signatures. That would ensure the proposed party room meeting goes ahead at noon; it is not clear Turnbull will be able to head off organisational pressure to have the situation resolved in any case. If so, a leadership ballot will proceed between Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop. The situation is fluid, but the prevailing view seems to be that Bishop will be excluded after a first round vote, setting up a decisive showdown between Dutton and Morrison. A lot may depend on the Solicitor-General’s advice on Dutton’s Section 44 issue, expected this morning.
It also appears to established that this will be immediately followed by Malcolm Turnbull resigning from parliament, and Nationals MP Kevin Hogan moving to the cross-bench. Hogan would continue voting with confidence and supply, but Turnbull’s absence could cause other votes to be lost if the cross bench was united against the government, unless Labor granted a pairing arrangement. Then there is the question of a by-election in Wentworth, which would not be a foregone conclusion for the Liberals – particularly, one suspects, if Dutton is leader. Labor was starting to look almost competitive in the seat before Turnbull made his mark there; failing that, there would seem to be a strong chance of a conservative independent emerging. While there will undoubtedly be a clamour for an early election, the scale of the Liberals’ unreadiness for one suggests it will not be so early as to preclude the need for the by-election.
• A ReachTEL poll for the CFMEU finds 55.5% rating themselves less likely to vote Liberal if Peter Dutton was leader, compared with 22.9% for more likely and 21.5% for no difference. A question on preferred Liberal leader had Peter Dutton on just 10.2%, behind Turnbull on 38.1%, Julie Bishop on 29.2%, Tony Abbott on 14.0% and Scott Morrison on 8.6%. This is consistent with other such polling of recent times, though perhaps a little stronger for Julie Bishop. On voting intention, Labor led 53-47; we haven’t had a ReachTEL poll from Sky News for three months now, but the last one had Labor leading 52-48. After allocating results of a forced response question for the undecided, the primary votes are Coalition 36.1%, Labor 35.0%, Greens 10.8% and One Nation 9.0%. The poll was conducted Wednesday night from a sample of 2430.
• Further bolstering Julie Bishop’s claim is another Morgan SMS poll, finding her favoured 64-36 over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister, while Shorten held a bare 50.5-49.5 lead over Scott Morrison. The poll was conducted yesterday from a sample of 1126. Unlike Wednesday’s poll, which matched Bill Shorten against Malcolm Turnbull (unfavourably) and Peter Dutton (favourably), this one did not include an undecided option. Bishop’s lead was fairly consistent across the age spectrum, whereas Morrison did much better among older respondents.