Malcolm Turnbull falls victim to his pugnacious predecessor

Liberal Party deputy leader Julie Bishop left and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull after Tuesday’s leadership spill

Former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Treasurer Scott Morrison are seen as leading contenders in the event of a ballot.

Senior ministers Mathias Cormann, Mitch Fifield and Michaelia Cash earlier told Mr Turnbull he had lost his government's support and must hold a ballot quickly.

He delayed calling the meeting until he received a petition showing the names of the 43 people who wanted a spill.

Senator Sinodinos walked in to the party room meeting at Mr Turnbull's side with another of his staunchest backers, Craig Laundy.

That petition has yet to be presented, but on Friday even some Turnbull supporters indicated they would sign the petition to try to force a resolution of the matter, which they said was harming the Liberal Party and the government.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester - a National MP and a strong supporter of Mr Turnbull - warned no leadership challenger should assume they will command a majority in the lower house.

"The Liberal Party, whatever it does today and tomorrow, is irreparably split", Shorten said.

For Dutton it meant he only need to secure another seven votes before he challenged Turnbull again and would this time, with history on his side, win.

Such a pending court case could scare lawmakers away from supporting Dutton in a leadership ballot. Believe me: there's a lot of good people on both sides of the chamber and we can do better.

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"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", Dutton added.

His deputy Julie Bishop has been eliminated in the race to replace him as leader, leaving a contest between Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison. "I'm sorry. You deserve better than numerous things our Federal Parliament has served up to you for the past 10 years", wrote Nationals MP Darren Chester, whose party is in a coalition with the Liberals.

"Another day and another one of chaos from this government - a government that has effectively stopped governing because it's too busy fighting itself", said deputy opposition leader Tanya Plibersek.

Mr Turnbull has been under pressure from poor polling, a looming election, and a revolt by conservative MPs.

Australia has had years of political instability since Prime Minister John Howard lost power in 2007 after more than 11 years in office.

Complicating matters, Mr Dutton was referred to the solicitor-general over his eligibility to sit in Parliament due to family financial interests in childcare centres that receive government subsidies - a possible breach of constitutional rules. I'm sorry. You deserve better than numerous things our Federal Parliament has served up to you for the past 10 years.

The nation's top lawyer has since cleared Dutton to continue in parliament, reports said Friday.

Dutton and his camp, including former prime minister Tony Abbott who once described climate change as "absolute crap", have also made clear keeping power prices down was more important than meeting Canberra's commitment to slash carbon emissions by 26% by 2030.

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