Is it Still On? Here's What Could Happen Now In The #LibSpill
Here's how this could play out from here.
If you're confused about what exactly is going on in Canberra, you're not alone.
It's been a long few days in parliament, with a failed leadership challenge from Peter Dutton, mass ministerial resignations and a plot for a second challenge.
Dutton lost Tuesday's challenge, but as a backbencher now, he is free to whip up numbers and try a second challenge -- as he has admitted doing.
So what can happen from here? What are the options? And how close are we to a potential Prime Minister Dutton? Here are the possibilities at this stage.
Dutton challenges again, wins
So while Turnbull brought on a vote himself on Tuesday, Dutton could force a second vote on him. As when Turnbull himself rolled Tony Abbott in 2015, the challenger can go to the incumbent to say that they have the support of the partyroom and call for a spill.
Dutton only needed to flip seven votes to take the leadership, and with a bunch of Turnbull-voting MPs saying they would vote for Dutton in a second challenge, he seems to already have the numbers. This could happen as early as Wednesday or Thursday, but if not, would be September before it could happen again, as a vote needs to happen while parliament is sitting.
But while Dutton might take the Liberal leadership, he might not be PM for very long. Nationals MPs like Darren Chester, who don't get a vote in the Liberal leadership but are caught up in the Coalition agreement, say they would consider sitting as independent MPs instead under a PM Dutton, meaning the Coalition wouldn't have the necessary numbers to hold government.
That could lead to a no confidence motion in Dutton, and/or the Governor General stepping in to dissolve parliament and have another election to resolve the numbers.
That's obviously a nuclear option but considering public comments, it's a live option.
Dutton challenges again, loses
Losing a second challenge seems unlikely at this point, but it could happen. Dutton could challenge again and lose again, and would probably have to retreat for a while to lick his wounds.
But even that wouldn't be a death blow to his leadership ambitions, with three challenges needed for Kevin Rudd to re-take the Labor leadership from Julia Gillard in 2012 and 2013.
Someone else challenges, and wins
Here's one that has emerged in the last day or so. Considering the nuclear option of a PM Dutton leading to a parliament dissolution, there is talk of a "consensus candidate" leading to Turnbull being out but Dutton not taking the top job. Scott Morrison, one of Turnbull's closer allies and formerly tipped as a future PM, has been singled out as a possibility to lead a new ticket that could replace Turnbull.
2GB Radio reported the possibility of a Morrison-Dutton ticket, which would get Turnbull out of The Lodge and also give Dutton a leadership position, but not lead to a mass resignation of Nationals.
Turnbull declares leadership vacant again
This seems less likely, but Turnbull could jump the gun again and throw down another challenge to Dutton before he is ready. It would be probably ill-advised to tempt fate, but the PM could chance his hand again and see if a snap vote could surprise Dutton's supporters again. But a sitting duck leader like Turnbull would try to avoid this at all costs, lest he be surprised himself with a loss.
Turnbull calls an election
So this is an interesting one. As with the 'declares leadership vacant again' option above, Turnbull could blitz the field and ask the Governor General to dissolve parliament and bring on an early election. The PM has the power to do this, and he used it in only 2016.
In a hope to blast his opponents -- both inside and outside his own party -- from parliament, Turnbull could bring on an election, thus locking himself in as Liberal leader and PM for the campaign, and hoping an election win would give him the mandate to keep on governing.
But the flipside to this, of course, is that a hopelessly divided Liberal party -- which, remember, only has a one-seat majority right now -- might not exactly be an appealing prospect for voters. Why would anyone vote for a party that can't stop in-fighting, and for a leader who commands the respect of only half his partyroom? It's probably the riskiest strategy here, but in a turbulent parliament, anything could happen. Sky News political guru David Speers said the GG is staying in Canberra this week, when he was originally due to depart earlier, which hasn't quelled these rumours.