Senior members of Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet have offered their resignations in the wake of Peter Dutton’s bid for the Liberal leadership, with trade minister Steve Ciobo and health minister Greg Hunt the latest to join the exodus from the frontbench.
SBS News has confirmed Mr Ciobo’s resignation, while Mr Hunt’s has been reported by the ABC.
Nine junior and senior minister have now offered their resignations as speculation builds that former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton will mount another challenge in the coming days or weeks.
Mr Ciobo has been instrumental in negotiating key Turnbull government policies, including draft free-trade deals with the European Union and UK and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
SBS News understands the prime minister has not accepted Mr Ciobo’s resignation, nor any of the other frontbenchers’ except for Mr Dutton’s.
International development minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells was among Tuesday’s resignations, warning that the Coalition’s “conservative base strongly feel that their voice has been eroded”.
Michael Sukkar was the first to go, stepping down from his office on Tuesday evening as the minister assisting the treasurer. That resignation was quickly followed by Senator James McGrath, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells and then cybersecurity minister Angus Taylor.
ACT Senator Zed Seselja tendered his resignation as Assistant Minister for Science, Jobs and innovation later on Tuesday night.
Mr Sukkar’s office confirmed the resignation to SBS News earlier Tuesday evening, revealing via a statement he had voted for Mr Dutton during the leadership ballot.
“In light of today’s leadership ballot in which I voted for Peter Dutton, I have offered my resignation to the Prime Minister,” he said.
“As a matter of integrity I felt compelled to do so.”
Less than an hour later, a second assistant minister resigned.
James McGrath’s office confirmed to SBS News the Queensland Liberal senator had followed Mr Dutton’s lead and offered his resignation, giving up his position as assistant minister to the prime minister.
“I voted for Peter Dutton for Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. As a matter of integrity, this afternoon I offered my resignation to the Prime Minister,” Senator McGrath posted on Facebook on Tuesday afternoon.
Mr Turnbull must now decide whether to accept the wave of resignations and trigger a substantial reshuffle of the cabinet with a federal election looming.
“These are people who, for their own reasons, have decided to offer their resignation. But I know that the Prime Minister is working very hard to heal the divisions and to bring the party together,” foreign minister Julie Bishop told the ABC.
Mr Dutton lost Tuesday’s leadership ballot with 35 votes to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s 48.
The former Home Affairs minister has resigned to sit on the backbench, but has not ruled out another challenge.
Mr Dutton would only need seven Liberals to switch their allegiance to succeed in a second ballot.