Malcolm Turnbull

Liberal leadership crisis: Alan Tudge, Greg Hunt and Steve Ciobo join frontbench exodus

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Ten frontbenchers have now offered the prime minister their resignations amid reports Peter Dutton may challenge Mr Turnbull a second time.

Senior members of Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet have offered their resignations in the wake of Peter Dutton’s bid for the Liberal leadership.

Multiculturalism and citizenship minister Alan Tudge is the latest to offer, but SBS News understands the prime minister has not accepted it.

Mr Tudge worked directly with Mr Dutton in the Home Affairs portfolio, along with cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor, who has also resigned.

SBS News understands the prime minister has only accepted Mr Dutton's resignation, leaving the others in limbo. They still hold their ministerial positions, for now. 

A string of senior ministers resigned on Tuesday evening, with trade minister Steve Ciobo and health minister Greg Hunt among the most senior to join the exodus from the frontbench.

Ten frontbenchers have now offered their resignations as speculation builds that former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton will mount another challenge in the coming days or weeks.

Mr Ciobo has been instrumental in negotiating key Turnbull government policies, including draft free-trade deals with the European Union and UK and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

International development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was among Tuesday’s resignations, warning that the Coalition’s “conservative base strongly feel that their voice has been eroded”.

Michael Sukkar was the first to go, stepping down from his office on Tuesday evening as the minister assisting the treasurer. That resignation was quickly followed by Senator James McGrath, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and then cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor.

ACT Senator Zed Seselja tendered his resignation as Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and innovation later on Tuesday night.

Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor has offered his resignation, following Peter Duttno's challenge.
Federal Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Angus Taylor has offered his resignation, following Peter Duttno's challenge.
AAP

Mr Sukkar’s office confirmed the resignation to SBS News earlier Tuesday evening, revealing via a statement he had voted for Mr Dutton during the leadership ballot. 

“In light of today's leadership ballot in which I voted for Peter Dutton, I have offered my resignation to the Prime Minister,” he said.  

Assistant Minister to the Treas­urer Michael Sukkar has handed in his resignation.
Assistant Minister to the Treas­urer Michael Sukkar has handed in his resignation.
AAP

"As a matter of integrity I felt compelled to do so."

Less than an hour later, a second assistant minister resigned.

James McGrath’s office confirmed to SBS News the Queensland Liberal senator had followed Mr Dutton’s lead and offered his resignation, giving up his position as assistant minister to the prime minister.

Liberal Party Senator James McGrath has also quit.
Liberal Party Senator James McGrath has also quit.
AAP

"I voted for Peter Dutton for Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. As a matter of integrity, this afternoon I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister," Senator McGrath posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Turnbull must now decide whether to accept the wave of resignations and trigger a substantial reshuffle of the cabinet with a federal election looming. 

Liberal deputy Julie Bishop downplayed the possibility of a Dutton prime ministership, saying a number of people who voted against Turnbull have now reconsidered their position.

Ms Bishop also rejected reports she would quit politics to strip the government of a majority should Mr Dutton seize the top job: "I've never made that threat to anyone."

"I believe that the prime minister has been endorsed by a majority of the partyroom... and understand that a number of people who didn't vote for him have now said they will back him," the foreign minister told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has quit the frontbench.
Concetta Fierravanti-Wells has quit the frontbench.
AAP

Mr Dutton lost Tuesday's leadership ballot with 35 votes to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s 48.

The former Home Affairs minister has resigned to sit on the backbench, but has not ruled out another challenge.

Mr Dutton would only need seven Liberals to switch their allegiance to succeed in a second ballot.

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