After narrowly losing a surprise leadership ballot, Peter Dutton has made his first public pitch for the top job.
Unlike Liberal leadership contenders in the past, most notably Malcolm Turnbull when he challenged Tony Abbott, Mr Dutton was careful not to criticise his leader when he spoke to journalists early on Tuesday afternoon (AEST).
“I harbour no animosity towards Malcolm Turnbull and have always had a productive working relationship with Malcolm Turnbull and I harbour no animosity towards the Prime Minister now,” he said in Canberra.
Mr Dutton is now a backbencher, after resigning from the cabinet. That meant he can “smile a little more”, free of responsibility for border security, he said.
At a party room meeting on Tuesday morning, Mr Dutton lost the leadership to Mr Turnbull by 45 votes to 38.
Mr Dutton refused to rule out a second challenge. Importantly, he reiterated the word “today” when describing his loss, which many commentators saw as a sign of future ambition.
“The problem is that Bill Shorten would be a disastrous prime minister of this country and I believe I had the best prospect of leading the Liberal Party to success at the next election,” he said, when asked to explain why he challenged.
“That was not to be today and I understand and I respect the outcome and I fully support the Prime Minister and the cabinet.”
Mr Dutton opened the media conference with a lengthy resume of his political career, with a special emphasis on his close ties to former leader John Howard. This did nothing to dispel the suspicion that he will challenge again.
The Prime Minister is reportedly reshuffling his ministry after the spill.
Mr Dutton’s former portfolio of home affairs will be filled in the interim by Treasurer Scott Morrison.