Emission targets dumped as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull under fire

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra Monday

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra Monday

After his abortive attempt to snatch the leadership of the Liberal Party, it was pretty clear that Peter Dutton's position in Malcolm Turnbull's cabinet was, shall we say, untenable.

While Turnbull has won the day, the battle for the leadership of the party is not over.

The move came after Dutton visited Turnbull in the ministerial wing of Parliament House shortly before the formal meeting, clearing the way for a decision over the leadership as conservatives agitate for a change in the government's direction.

But the result - narrow by historical standards for a first strike against a prime minister - sets the Turnbull government up for further instability and the possibility of another ballot before the next federal election. "I will support what the government does, I will support what Malcolm does".

A senior political figure described Mr Turnbull as being in "panic mode" and "clearly rattled" about the amount of support he has lost.

However, those who didn't support it threatened to "cross the floor" - that is, vote against it in Parliament.

Dutton will now move to the back bench following the contest, leaving the "wounded" prime minister to reshuffle his cabinet.

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The prime minister entered the party room with his deputy Julie Bishop amid speculation about his leadership. I've spoken to nearly all the cabinet ministers from the Liberal Party.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the prime minister should call an election, if he survives the week.

Fellow MPs from Mr Dutton's home state of Queensland are also understood to have been encouraged to turn on Mr Turnbull.

Some lawmakers including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott argue the government should be focusing on cutting electricity prices instead of cutting emissions.

"That is what people are telling me and that is what the government wants to do", he said.

Abbott was then unseated in a party coup by Turnbull in 2015.

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