August 21, 2018 / 3:00 AM / 8 months ago

Australian prime minister calls for party unity after leadership challenge

FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaks at a news conference after a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the Alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium April 24, 2018. REUTERS/Francois Walschaerts/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called on his government on Tuesday to unite or risk defeat at the next election as the embattled leader looks to cement his position after surviving a leadership challenge.

Turnbull won a leadership contest over Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton by 48 votes to 35 earlier on Tuesday, a margin of victory that did little to dispel political instability in a country that has had six different leaders since 2009.

“United we will maintain the strong momentum and the great achievements our government has made,” Turnbull told reporters in Canberra. Dutton moved to the backbench after his failed challenge and Turnbull said Treasurer Scott Morrison would act as interim home affairs minister.

Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Paul Tait

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