Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has appealed for unity after surviving a challenge to his leadership from a senior government colleague.

Mr Turnbull had called the surprise vote himself in a bid to resolve speculation that his leadership was under threat.

In a party room ballot in Canberra on Tuesday, he defeated Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

Reports say the prime minister won the vote 48-35.

Following the result, he told colleagues: “It’s really important that we put our differences behind us and get on with the job of looking after Australians.”

Speculation over Mr Turnbull’s future as party leader had escalated in the past few days.

He faced a revolt from conservative MPs over a key climate change policy. That led to him abandoning the plans on Monday in an attempt to blunt conflict within his government.

The PM has also been under long-term pressure due to a series of bad polls and a by-election loss in Queensland.