Julie Bishop May Also Be Contesting The Liberal Leadership Spill

Scott Morrison

Liberal leadership challenger Peter Dutton has released advice from a second constitutional lawyer claiming he is eligible to sit in the parliament, hours ahead of an anticipated ballot.

Zed Seselja, a Dutton supporter who has resigned as a Turnbull government minister, estimated 40 had signed the petition by late Thursday.

"I can not underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of Parliament", Mr Turnbull said.

"As such, I asked him to convene a meeting of the Liberal Party at which I would challenge for the leadership of the parliamentary Liberal Party".

"Out of respect for my party, I spoke with the deputy PM and my colleagues", he said.

The prime minister also questioned Dutton's eligibility for parliament on Thursday. The next scheduled party meeting is September 11.

It doesn't. It is already within a whisker of becoming a minority government, a prospect that is likely if Peter Dutton comes prime minister and there is resulting movement from the government to the crossbenches.

Dutton has an interest, through a family trust, in two child care centres which receive subsidies through government programs.

If, as expected, Mr Turnbull does not survive the day, no prime minister will have lasted a full term since John Howard lost the 2007 election.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will stand for the leadership, local media reported.

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"It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we went to see the prime minister to advise him that in our judgement he no longer enjoyed the support of the majority of members in the Liberal Party party room", said Cormann, who used to be a trusted ally.

The government adjourned the lower house of parliament early on Thursday to focus on the leadership debacle, prompting opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten to tell Liberals in parliament, "Shame on you".

Turnbull said if he received a letter requesting a new vote with the signatures of 43 Liberal lawmakers he would call a party meeting for midday Friday (0200 GMT).

Vanstone, a cabinet minister for the entire almost 12 years of the Howard government revealed part of his genius for running the party's broad church so successfully and it's a warning to the Dutton camp to not swing too far to the right.

"The member for Dickson [Mr Dutton] has advised me that he has legal advice that he is not in breach of Section 44, and I therefore have no reason to believe that he is", Malcolm Turnbull said.

After the outpouring of attention Wednesday evening from Australia, Dutton thanked his well-wishers for support, pledged to bring his popcorn to Australia but said he had to get back to his 20-week pregnant wife.

Labor moved to refer Mr Dutton to the High Court on Thursday morning but the motion was defeated by one vote.

"I can not underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of parliament", Mr Turnbull said. "They have all been thrown out of power by their own parties in the face of poor opinion polling".

Australian shares are down more than 1.5 per cent since the first leadership challenge this week.

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