BREAKING: Turnbull To Quit As PM If Spill Passes
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the solicitor-general's legal advice on whether Peter Dutton is eligible for parliament needs to be seen by Liberal MPs before another leadership spill.
Mr Dutton, who is gunning to replace Mr Turnbull as prime minister, has been facing questions over his interest in two Brisbane centres through his family's RHT Family Trust.
Mr Turnbull said if the solicitor-general's advice cleared Mr Dutton on Friday morning, there could be a partyroom meeting and a spill motion, but he also wants to see the letter purportedly signed by 43 Liberal MPs calling for the meeting - to be held at noon.
"You can imagine the consequences of having a prime minister whose actions and decisions are questionable because of the issue of eligibility," the prime minister told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.
From July this year, childcare centres receive a direct subsidy from the federal government, raising questions as to whether Mr Dutton could be under a constitutional cloud.
Mr Dutton relied on legal advice from December 2017 to say he was eligible, but his lawyer Guy Reynolds has now updated the advice to include the recent law changes.
"Notwithstanding the changes which came into effect on July 2, 2018, my advice remains the same," Mr Reynolds said in a letter on Thursday morning.
Labor MP Tony Burke moved a motion on Thursday to refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns, which if proven could have led to Mr Dutton being disqualified from parliament.
The lower house vote was narrowly lost 68-69.
Mr Dutton queried why the story came out as he was challenging the prime minister.
"The timing on the eve of current events in Australian politics is curious," he said in a statement.
"There has never been any doubt about my eligibility to sit in the parliament and I attach the unequivocal legal advice I obtained in 2017 to that effect."
The business interest raises questions over whether government support to the centres is a constitutional problem for Mr Dutton and whether he was involved in cabinet decisions on the childcare sector.
This could put him in breach of section 44 of the constitution, which bans people from parliament who have "any direct or indirect pecuniary interest with the public service of the commonwealth".
Former finance minister and close friend Mathias Cormann believes Mr Dutton has nothing to worry about, backing him as the best person to lead the Liberal Party.
"Peter Dutton is a validly elected member of parliament - that's a distraction," Senator Cormann said.