Malcolm Turnbull falls victim to his pugnacious predecessor

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So before we get into the complexities of sorting out exactly what a change in Prime Minister could mean for Australia, let's bring it back to basics and figure out the who's-who in the Australian Survivor Parliament right now.

As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's front bench deserted him and things reached fever pitch, Mr Dutton fired off a tweet which has now gone viral.

Turnbull said if he received a letter requesting a new vote with the signatures of 43 Liberal lawmakers he would call a party meeting for midday Friday (0200 GMT).

"Earlier this week in the Nationals party room were discussing how to help farmers, the drought and emergency services workers, while the Liberals were talking about leadership changes", he said.

Mr Turnbull came to power in a party-room coup in September 2015 over former premier Tony Abbott, who also survived an internal leadership contest before his eventual defeat.

For the last year, Peter Dutton - a 30-year-old who lives in the American city of Austin - has received messages of support and criticism from Twitter users who have mistaken him for the man hoping to become Australia's next prime minister.

Turnbull did not immediately make a public response.

Malcolm Turnbull still has a solid lead over Mr Shorten (54 to 46) while it was neck and neck with Scott Morrison, with Mr Shorten ahead by the narrowest margin (50.5 to 49.5).

Dutton has an interest, through a family trust, in two child care centres which receive subsidies through government programs.

"I can not underline too much how important it is that anyone who seeks to be prime minister of Australia is eligible to be a member of parliament", Turnbull said.

On Thursday, the prime minister lost the support of three key backers - a move seen by commentators as a blow to his chances of remaining leader.

Turnbull accepted the resignations of former Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, according to the BBC.

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.

However, he said if his colleagues at the meeting told him they wanted a vote, he would not contest his job and would leave parliament.

Attorney-General Christian Porter referred the matter to the government's top solicitor on Wednesday evening - just as Mr Dutton's supporters were circulating a petition and preparing for an imminent leadership challenge.

At the same time, media reports were claiming Treasurer Scott Morrison was likely to stand for party leadership if the position is vacated.

Donaghue said Dutton's case was impossible to predict because the facts are "unlike those that have previously been assessed" by the high court and there is "significant division" on the court about section 44 (v).

In a frantic Thursday morning, Australia's opposition parties lost a parliament vote that would have forced a court to determine whether Dutton is eligible for the premiership. Some constitutional lawyers say there are areas of doubt.

Such a pending court case could scare lawmakers away from supporting Dutton in a leadership ballot.