Malcolm Turnbull says he will step down if his party calls for a leadership ballot. The crisis caused the Australian government to shut down Parliament early for its two-week haitus.

Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison (2nd-L), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C), and former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (R), leave the chamber at Parliament House in Canberra on August 23, 2018, after a vote to refer former Dutton to the High Court to determine whether he is eligible to be a lawmaker.
Australian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison (2nd-L), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C), and former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton (R), leave the chamber at Parliament House in Canberra on August 23, 2018, after a vote to refer former Dutton to the High Court to determine whether he is eligible to be a lawmaker. (AP)

Australia's prime minister has said he will quit Parliament if his party wants a leadership ballot.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull stated he plans to hold a party meeting on Friday if a majority of his ruling conservative Liberal Party lawmakers want it. If that meeting calls for a leadership ballot —which is a likely outcome considering senior party members have indicated so —Turnbull said he will quit Parliament.

"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 told reporters in Canberra.

Pressure continues to mount on the prime minister to allow his ruling party to elect a new leader and end a leadership crisis that's the latest in more than a decade of political instability.

Former minister Peter Dutton has announced his intentions of wanting to stand for election as prime minister.

Turnbull defeated Dutton 48-35 in a surprise vote on Tuesday.

This occurred after Dutton publicly threw his support behind the beleaguered Turnbull last week.

Senior ministers Mathias Cormann, Michaelia Cash and Mitch Fifield told Turnbull on Thursday that he had lost his government's support and must hold a ballot of conservative Liberal Party lawmakers to elect a new leader quickly. It was a major blow to Turnbull's chances of staying in office.

If Turnbull steps down, it would result in a by-election that could cost the government its single-seat majority or spur his replacement to immediately call a general election.

Australia's Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (L), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C), and Treasurer Scott Morrison address media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, August 22, 2018.
Australia's Finance Minister Mathias Cormann (L), Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (C), and Treasurer Scott Morrison address media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, August 22, 2018. (AP)

Karen Middleton talks to TRT World from Canberra, Australia about what led to Malcolm Turnbull losing his support base.

Turmoil in parliament

The Australian Parliament shut down on Thursday as the government passed a motion adjourning the House of Representatives at midday until September 10.

Furious opposition lawmakers argued against the motion to adjourn until September 10.

The opposition argued that the government wanted to avoid question time, a daily period when the prime minister and ministers answer opposition questions for more than an hour. Several ministers have already resigned.

"No government in living memory has dissembled so much that they decided the Parliament couldn't meet," opposition lawmaker Tony Burke told Parliament before the motion passed.

"No government in living memory has said: 'It's all too hard. We're just going home,'" he added.

Deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek told Parliament said whoever emerged as prime minister should immediately call an election, an outcome that some analysts argue is probable.

The government does not have a majority in the Senate, which has not been shut down.

Turnbull initiated Tuesday's ballot in the hope of ending speculation that his government had lost faith in him in the face of poor opinion polling.

Cormann, the finance minister, had publicly stated his support for Turnbull on Wednesday, but on Thursday said Dutton should lead the government.

"I was wanting to continue to support Malcolm Turnbull for years to come as leader of the Liberal Party. But I can't ignore reality," Cormann told reporters.

"When I have five Cabinet colleagues telling me that they supported Malcolm on Tuesday ... but they have changed their position, that is not something that I can ignore," he added.

Dutton wants the new vote on Thursday before Parliament takes a two-week break. The next scheduled party meeting is September 11.

Media reports say other lawmakers are considering running for Turnbull's job, including Treasurer Scott Morrison.

Former Australian Cabinet minister Peter Dutton addresses the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday, August 21, 2018.
Former Australian Cabinet minister Peter Dutton addresses the media at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday, August 21, 2018. (AP)

Dutton supporters circulate a petition

Dutton supporters on Wednesday circulated a petition among Liberal Party lawmakers in a bid to force Turnbull to hold a ballot. But they failed to get the minimum 43 signatures that were required.

The opposition narrowly lost a vote in Parliament that would have sent Dutton to court to determine whether he is eligible to be a prime minister.

The vote to refer Dutton to the High Court was defeated 69 votes to 68 in the House of Representatives before it adjourned.

Dutton has released legal advice that his family's ownership of two child-care centres that received federal funding does not breach a constitutional ban on lawmakers having a pecuniary interest in an agreement with the public service. Some constitutional lawyers say there are areas of doubt.

Such a pending court case could scare lawmakers away from supporting Dutton in a leadership ballot. Government lawyers are investigating his case to see if there were issues for the High Court to determine.

No Australian prime minister has lasted a full three-year term since Prime Minister John Howard lost power in 2007 after more than 11 years in office. They have all been thrown out of power by their own parties amid poor opinion polling in a trend of political instability that divides parties and angers voters.

Source: AP