Australians could be returning to the polls sooner than they expected, if Malcolm Turnbull wants to finish this term of government as Prime Minister.
That is one scenario emerging from supporters of Mr Turnbull after the Liberal leadership spill Tuesday morning.
The Prime Minister narrowly won the party room ballot 48 to 35 votes after declaring his position vacant and receiving a challenge from his home affairs minister, Peter Dutton.
If just seven Liberals had voted differently, the PM would have been ousted.
The result suggests Mr Dutton, who declined an offer from the PM to remain in cabinet after the contest, will mount another challenge from the back bench within days.
That could be as soon as Thursday, before Parliament rises for the week, or when it returns next month.
To avoid another spill, the Prime Minister could decide to call a snap election.
“At least that way he finishes the term as PM,” said one Liberal MP.
“You can be sure he is contemplating that option as we speak.”
Mr Turnbull brought on the spill with little notice and the result has stunned his supporters.
Without an opportunity to work the phones and build his numbers, Mr Dutton managed to get 35 members of the party room to turn away from the Prime Minister.
That number included some fellow front benchers.
“It’s hardly a show of confidence in the current leadership,” one senior Liberal source told The New Daily.
“Imagine what Dutton might do if he has a few days to convince more to come over to him.”
Before Mr Turnbull declared his leadership position vacant, he reminded the party room of the government’s achievements and his own successes.
He urged party unity.
Disgruntled backbencher, and former PM, Tony Abbott made his views known to the party room.
“Unity has to be created and loyalty has to be earned,” Mr Abbott said.
“They can’t just be demanded.”
Liberal MP Warren Entsch rebuked Mr Abbott in the room for being a “wrecker”.
One Liberal contact has compared the situation to the PM suffering a stroke.
“It’s the second stroke that kills you,” they told TND.
“We can be certain there will be a second.”
Mr Turnbull subsequently fronted the media with deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop to declare his leadership safe.
He also repeated his offer of an olive branch to Mr Dutton.
“Peter has done an outstanding job as home affairs minister, the first home affairs minister in our country, and I thank him,” the Prime Minister said.
“I’ve invited him to continue in the office, but he has said to me that he doesn’t feel he can continue … having challenged me for the leadership.”
Treasurer Scott Morrison will act in the Home Affairs role in the interim.
Ms Bishop remains deputy leader after receiving no challenge when her position was also declared vacant.
“I don’t bear any grudge to Peter Dutton for having stood up and challenged me today,” Mr Turnbull said.
“It’s really important that we put differences behind us and get on with our job of looking after 25 million Australians who put us here.”
Mr Dutton would not rule out mounting another challenge.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used question time to move a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister.