Peter Dutton launches challenge against Malcolm Turnbull for the prime ministership

Treasurer Scott Morrison has rejected claims the Turnbull government's energy policy is dead

Cabinet ministers are openly admitting they are facing an outbreak of disunity as Malcolm Turnbull's supporters try to quell talk of a leadership challenge.

In a vote carried out this morning, Mr Turnbull won the challenge to decide the leadership of the Liberal Party and the government 48 votes to 35, after earlier declaring the Liberal leadership vacant.

"Even with strong support in the party room, if a small number of people are not prepared to vote with the government on a measure, then it won't get passed", Turnbull told reporters.

Julie Bishop was re-elected unopposed as deputy leader.

Such a situation occurred when Turnbull took the leadership from Abbott, with an "empty chair" challenge in February 2015 returning Abbott but a September 2015 challenge seeing Turnbull take the top job.

Labor's Kevin Rudd became the second Australian prime minister to be dumped while in office when Julia Gillard rolled him in 2010 just before an election.

But the Prime Minister faces ongoing leadership pressure, with his authority significantly diminished by the capitulation to Tony Abbott and his band of rebel MPs.


Abbott led the Liberal-National coalition to a storming victory over Rudd's Labor in 2013.

The vote comes a day after Ten News revealed a possible section 44 constitutional cloud over Dutton's business interests which could make him ineligible to sit in parliament.

A report in The Australian suggests Mr Turnbull had lost confidence of nine Liberal cabinet ministers - half of the Liberal contingent.

"What we've seen here is a prime minister who has clearly listened to concerns", Mr Joyce said.

On Monday, Mr Turnbull attempted to blunt conflict within the government by abandoning plans to set an emissions reduction target in legislation.

Mr Abbott said: 'It's no way to run a government, making absolute commitments on Tuesday and breaking them on Friday'.

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