Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann and Minister for Jobs Michaelia Cash at a press conference to announce their support for Peter Dutton as prime minister at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, August 23, 2018. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

Malcolm Turnbull’s Prime Ministership is effectively over, with Mathias Cormann announcing he had shifted his support to Peter Dutton after realising that the majority of the Liberal partyroom no longer backed Turnbull.

A grim-faced Cormann, flanked by his Senate Deputy Mitch Fifield and fellow West Australian Michaelia Cash, announced this morning his resignation after consulting with colleagues to determine the level of support of the PM among his colleagues overnight.

Cormann, as the party’s senior conservative, its Senate leader, Finance minister and the man regarded across the parliament as the government’s most competent and respected minister, is the key figure in this leadership crisis and his support for the Prime Minister, restated yesterday, was seen as the biggest impediment to a swift transfer to Peter Dutton. His shift guarantees the end of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership a month out from its third anniversary.

The issues now are how Turnbull reacts, and whether Dutton is opposed, by either Scott Morrison or Julie Bishop. If Turnbull elects to fight it out in the partyroom, it will guarantee a Dutton victory; if he resigns — a most unlikely step for Turnbull — it will clear the way for another candidate to try to lead the moderate forces within the party. This morning there were contradictory reports about whether Turnbull would resign and allow Morrison to run unhindered.

As Cormann emerged for his media conference into the Senate courtyard, he looked shattered. This is a man who served Tony Abbott to the last, and then served Malcolm Turnbull to the last — just yesterday, Cormann was still performing CPR on the government’s company tax cuts, trying every possibly stratagem to get the votes necessary. He has been Malcolm Turnbull’s, and this government’s, rock. But, he said, five of his cabinet colleagues who had voted for Turnbull on Tuesday told him they had shifted their support.  He’s the only figure in this entire stunning debacle, this shitshow of incompetence, malice and egomania, who emerges with his reputation intact.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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