Update: Scott Morrison has been elected Liberal Party leader in a 45-40 vote. Josh Frydenberg has been elected deputy leader.
Malcolm Turnbull quit the job after he called for a spill of leadership positions in a Liberal partyroom meeting on Friday.
Mr Morrison, Peter Dutton and Julie Bishop contested a three-way contest to replace him, with Ms Bishop eliminated first after getting the lowest vote.
Original report: As the implosion of the Liberal Party continues, three ministers have now put up their hand for the top job. Scott Morrison threw his hat in the ring on Wednesday night and Julie Bishop put up her hand belatedly on Thursday.
As for Peter Dutton, the MP who started it all, the solicitor-general considers him ‘likely clear’ to be sitting in parliament after Malcolm Turnbull claimed he has breached section 44 of the constitution.
Solicitor-general Stephen Donaghue QC provided the advice about whether Mr Dutton was eligible to sit in parliament over his financial interests in Commonwealth-funded childcare centres.
Some risk: solicitor-general
Mr Donaghue found there is ‘some risk’ the High Court would find Mr Dutton has a conflict of interest over federal payments to the childcare centres.
‘However, while that risk cannot be entirely discounted, it would remain necessary for the Court to identify an agreement in which Mr Dutton held that interest,’ Mr Donaghue said in legal advice released on Friday.
‘I am unable to identify such an agreement.
‘I consider it unlikely that Mr Dutton is disqualified by reason of payments made to RHT Investments under the Inclusion Support Programme.’
Section 44 of the Constitution bans from parliament persons who have ‘any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the Commonwealth’.
Mr Donaghue said it was not possible to reach a definitive conclusion without more detailed information.
PM hangs on
A defiant Malcolm Turnbull, is hanging on until the bitter end while Dutton, Morrison and Bishop are all working the phones to drum up support ahead of an expected leadership showdown in Canberra on Friday.
The prime minister says he will only call the meeting if he receives a petition signed by a majority of his MPs calling for a leadership spill.
Mr Dutton’s troops claim they have reached the 43 signatories required to force the meeting.
Foreign minister Julie Bishop has reportedly been calling MPs personally to appeal to them.
She could snatch an unlikely victory by winning over the moderates in her ranks.
Ms Bishop could also appeal to MPs in marginal seats who are at serious risk of being wiped out at the next election under a Dutton government.
Ms Bishop, who has served under Brendan Nelson, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull reportedly told colleagues she will not serve as ‘another man’s deputy’.
Queensland Liberal MP Scott Buchholz – a staunch Turnbull supporter – wants the prime minister to call the spill regardless of the petition.
‘I am being pressured – beyond any comprehension – I am being pressured to put my name on that list so it can bring the party room to a meeting,’ he said.
Senior minister Christopher Pyne said none of his colleagues should tell Mr Turnbull what to do.
‘I think some people of the caucus should have considered the greater good of the people of Australia and the government rather than their self-interested ambition,’ he told reporters outside Parliament House.
Dutton supporter Eric Abetz said the need for 43 public signatures was a complete fabrication, labelling it a bullying and intimidation tactic.
‘This sort of behaviour by a leader has never been witnessed before by any of us,’ Senator Abetz told ABC radio.
He welcomed an intervention by federal Liberal president Nick Greiner, who has called on the crisis to be resolved on Friday.
Mr Turnbull also wants to wait for legal advice from the solicitor-general about Mr Dutton’s eligibility to sit in parliament.
The solicitor-general is expected to submit his advice on the former home affairs minister about 8.30am Friday.
Mr Turnbull plans to quit parliament if he’s ousted, forcing a by-election in his Sydney seat of Wentworth that could threaten the coalition’s one-seat majority in the lower house.
This could create problems for his successor, particularly if Nationals MPs Kevin Hogan (Page) and Darren Chester (Gippsland) follow through on their threats to sit on the cross bench.
Mr Turnbull’s former deputy prime minister, Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce, is urging him to put the coalition first and remain in parliament.
‘You can’t demand support from your people and then when the time comes for your support, you decide you’ve had enough of the show,’ Mr Joyce told ABC radio.
Mr Dutton has released advice from his own lawyers which he says shows his stake in two child care centres – which receive federal government funding – does not breach section 44 of the constitution.
– with AAP