Malcolm Turnbull: Australia PM's leadership on a knife edge

Media caption,
Australia's struggle to keep a PM on board

Pressure is mounting on Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull as internal party rivals prepare for a potential imminent leadership contest.

Mr Turnbull is fighting to retain his position amid a push by senior colleagues to replace him as leader.

He says he will stand down if a majority of Liberal Party MPs sign a letter to bring on an internal vote.

If that happens, a ballot for a new leader will take place on Friday in what is likely to be a three-way race.

The prime minister is facing pressure following poor opinion polls, losses in recent by-elections, and a revolt by the conservative wing of his party.

Internal rumblings came to a head in a debate about energy and climate change policy - polarising issues for his centre-right coalition.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Three senior Liberals have put their names forward to succeed PM Turnbull - (2nd left to right) Peter Dutton, Scott Morrison and Julie Bishop

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.

On Thursday, Mr Turnbull stared down calls for his resignation as the crisis continued to cripple his government.

Mr Turnbull told reporters that Australians would be "rightly appalled by what they are witnessing".

He set a deadline of 12:00 local time (02:00 GMT) for his rivals to produce a letter with at least 43 signatures.

Mr Turnbull said he would not run if a contest took place.

The past decade has been marked by a series of leadership coups, with three sitting prime ministers deposed by party rivals.

Not a single leader in recent times has succeeded in serving a full three-year term as prime minister.