Spills and thrills – Turnbull has – for now at least – stopped Dutton in his tracks. What next?
Turnbull has crafted a formidable obstacle to Dutton’s ambitions. First, he has referred Dutton’s potential ineligibility to sit in parliament to the solicitor general for an opinion. Note, that can only be an opinion, not a decision. The only people who can say for certain that Peter Dutton is eligible to be an MP and is not in breach of Section 44 of the constitution, and the High Court.
I’ll spell it out again. The SG doesn’t have the authority to decide if Dutton is eligible or not. He can only give an opinion. Only the High Court can decide. I would be very surprised if the SG gives Dutton a completely clean bill of health – he can’t – and therefore very surprised if Malcolm does not refer the case to the High Court tomorrow.
Dutton will be unable to stand for the leadership of until the matter is resolved. If he’s ruled ineligible he will face a by-election. Meanwhile Turnbull will postpone the party room meeting to a later date.
But just suppose the SG says Dutton is totally fine, and the vote can go ahead.
Turnbull doesn’t have to call a vote unless a majority of his MPs – 43 – request it. Dutton says he has the numbers. Turnbull wants their names, in writing, with their signatures, or there will be no vote. He says the must be accountable for their decision.
Understandably, many are reluctant to burn their boats like this, especially while Dutton’s eligibility is in question (this was confirmed by Patricia Karvelas). In response, Dutton has dropped the petition, and is demanding the meeting is held anyway.
And finally, if all the above fails to work, and he is forced out of his job, he will immediately resign from parliament, robbing the government of its majority. No matter who becomes Prime Minister. Which has Barnaby Joyce, for one, hopping mad.
Which could be Dutton, Morrison, and now Bishop is in the running too.
But… and it’s a huge but… how on earth does he imagine he can remain Prime Minister, given everything that has happened? I think we should be told.
Or is this all just playing for time?