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Australia PM's party expected to force leadership vote on Friday
[CANBERRA] Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has yet to receive the petition from his challenger that he requested as a condition for calling a second vote on his leadership in a week, but a key player said he is confident the meeting will happen at noon local time (0200 GMT).
Mr Turnbull narrowly defeated a leadership challenge from former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday, but has come under sustained pressure to call a second contest with the resignations of several prominent Cabinet figures.
Mr Turnbull said if he received a letter requesting a fresh vote with the signatures of 43 Liberal Party lawmakers, a majority of the party room, he would call a meeting.
That petition has yet to be presented, but on Friday even some Mr 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.
"I'm very confident we will have a party room meeting today," Mathias Cormann, formerly a key Turnbull backer who changed his support to Mr Dutton and resigned as Finance Minister on Thursday, told Sky News.
Mr Turnbull has said he will not stand if the Liberal Party parliamentarians back a motion for a leadership vote.
Instead, Mr Dutton is expected to face Treasurer Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to decide who will be Australia's sixth prime minister in the last decade.
Mr Dutton, however, is also under pressure after Mr Turnbull asked the government's most senior legal advisor to provide guidance on whether the former home affairs minister is eligible to remain in parliament and that advice is expected on Friday morning.
Mr Dutton has financial interests in daycare centres which receive government funding, potentially falling foul of Australia's constitution that bans lawmakers benefiting from state funds.
Mr Dutton late on Thursday published his own legal advice but should Australia's Solictor-General raise concerns, the leadership prospects for the senior Cabinet minister would be severely dented.
The uncertainty has clouded the outlook for investors who punished the Australian dollar, sending it 0.9 per cent lower to US$0.7283. The Aussie was the worst performing major currency on Thursday.
Australian shares are down more than 1.5 per cent since the first leadership challenge this week.