Australian PM under Pressure as Voter Support Slides

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gestures as he takes part in a press conference in Canberra

Despite Mr Turnbull's capitulation to energy policy rebels in his ranks, the threat to his leadership did not dissipate.

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on his Government to unite behind him after he survived an internal leadership challenge, defeating a senior minister in a ballot that is unlikely to settle questions about whether he's the right person to lead the party into elections due next year.

A report in The Australian suggests Mr Turnbull had lost confidence of nine Liberal cabinet ministers - half of the Liberal contingent. "He's a member of our team, he's given me his absolute support".

Instead he said, "my position from here will be to do what I can as a backbencher to make sure that I support the government, to make sure we are elected".

A by-election in Wentworth would also complicate matters in any change of leader.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull narrowly survived a leadership challenge from within his own party on August

Then, he resigned from the frontbench and his role as Home Affairs Minister. The rumblings are about all manner of things, including, one said to me yesterday, 'Malcolm Turnbull is just not one of us.' There are deep values arguments that are being made.

That's why it's very important that today the Liberal Party Room has confirmed my leadership and Julie's Deputy leadership of the Liberal Party.

Choosing to back down on the emissions legislation shows that Mr Turnbull wants to avoid testing his support in a parliamentary vote.

"We can not allow internal issues to undermine our work", Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will recontest his position.

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The prime minister said he took Mr Dutton at his word when he said he had legal advice saying he was in the clear, however the government is expected to double-check this with solicitor-general advice. "We could end up with a new prime minister by dinner time tomorrow night".

Under the Australian system, as in the United Kingdom, the prime minister is not directly elected by voters but is the leader of the party or coalition that can command a majority in parliament.

Government sources also pointed to Labor questions about Mr Dutton's financial interest in childcare centres last October, when Victorian Labor senator Kimberley Kitching asked about the family trust and any pecuniary interest in payments from the Commonwealth. "They can't just be demanded". Turnbull called the spill quickly this morning after panic set in within the Liberal party over the last few days.

Abbott and Dutton contend that the long-term framework should ditch global commitments to reduce emissions and meet climate change targets, and focus instead on keeping energy prices low for consumers.

Earlier, Mr Turnbull mounted a counter argument and reminded fellow Liberals that voters would not be impressed by leadership shenanigans.

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Turnbull declared the leadership vacant within minutes of the Liberal MPs gathering in Parliament House for their regular meeting on Tuesday morning, triggering a vote.

Further pressure will be on Mr Dutton if next week's Newspoll reveals the Government has fallen further and Mr Turnbull's personal approval rating continues to free fall.

"Definitely had enough of this, I think that it's bad for the stability of the nation", said law student Renata Labio. "I'm very proud of the fact that I got children out of detention - we've moved now nearly 400 people off Manus and Nauru that Labor put there, and that is a significant achievement".

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