Peter Dutton breaks silence on potential Liberal leadership chatter

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Peter Dutton has thrown his “100 per cent” support behind Scott Morrison, as speculation grows Liberals are losing confidence in the Prime Minister.

Following a dismal Newspoll last week that showed Labor’s biggest lead since former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s ousting, questions have been asked about Mr Morrison’s future.

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Mr Dutton, who was poised to take over leadership when Mr Turnbull was rolled in 2018, has been suggested as a leading candidate to be the next Liberal leader.

But, Mr Dutton broke his silence on Tuesday, confirming he was “100 per cent” loyal to Mr Morrison, who he pledged not to challenge.

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Peter Dutton breaks silence on potential Liberal leadership chatter

Camera IconDefence Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed his ‘100 per cent support’ of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, despite dismal polling. NCA/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

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“I have been loyal to Scott Morrison from day one and I continue to be so, because I have seen what he has done in taking us through what has been a difficult situation,” Mr Dutton told Seven’s Sunrise.

“There was no textbook as to what you should do in a one-in-100 year event, and we haven’t got everything right, but we have got most things right and compared to other countries, we are in a very good position.

“I think the government is going to manage us out of this situation over the next couple of years.”

Mr Morrison’s capacity to lead the party has come under fire in the last week, after text messages emerged from an unnamed cabinet minister and former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian in which the minister labelled him a “fraud” and “complete psycho”.

Mr Dutton had earlier this week been accused by former Labor foreign minister Bob Carr of leaking the text messages to Network Ten.

Peter Dutton breaks silence on potential Liberal leadership chatter

Camera IconMr Dutton has denied being the minister who leaked text messages labelling the Prime Minister a ‘fraud’ and ‘complete psycho’. NCA/Gary Ramage Credit: News Corp Australia

“The minister who shared the text with (Network Ten political editor Peter) van Onselen and gave permission to use it was Peter Dutton,” Mr Carr wrote on Twitter.

“If PM Morrison has one more week in free fall, the prospect of a leadership change pre-election is real. Party rules don’t count if most MPs think you will lead them to defeat.

Mr Dutton has vehemently denied these allegations, and called for Mr Carr to delete his tweets.

Mr Dutton told the Nine Network on Tuesday that he wouldn’t give Mr Carr “any credit”.

In a follow up tweet, Mr Carr said there was “only one way” Mr Dutton could win his case.

“Get another colleague to admit that they were the source for comments about the Prime Minister,” Mr Carr said.

“If not you, Mr Dutton, which of your colleagues? Until then who has most to gain from undermining further a flailing PM?”

Mr Dutton challenged Mr Turnbull for the leadership in 2018 and appeared to be on track to become Prime Minister until he was defeated by Mr Morrison 45 votes to 40.

At the time, Mr Morrison had backed Mr Turnbull, saying he was “ambitious” for his leader.

Peter Dutton breaks silence on potential Liberal leadership chatter

Camera IconThen-treasurer Scott Morrison said on the eve of 2018’s leadership challenge that he was ‘ambitious’ for then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Credit: News Corp Australia, Kym Smith

Mr Dutton doubled down on his conviction on Tuesday, admitting things were “scrappy” at the moment.

“But I think once we get into a campaign, people don’t give a toss really about any of this,” Mr Dutton said.

Earlier this week, outspoken columnist and Sky News host Andrew Bolt said Mr Dutton should “get ready to lead”, saving the Prime Minister in an opinion piece for the Herald Sun.

“Prime Minister Scott Morrison looks finished, and is now making a fool of himself to get some love,” Bolt wrote.

“Stinking in the polls, called a liar by his own deputy, and mocked as out of touch for not knowing the price of bread, Morrison on Friday hit back. He called in at a Melbourne hairdresser’s and … washed a woman’s hair.

“Dutton must be the Liberals’ next leader, at least if Morrison falls before the election. He is an instantly known quantity. Instantly dangerous.”

Barnaby Joyce is also under pressure after it emerged he called Mr Morrison a “liar” in a text message last year.

The Deputy Prime Minister apologised to Mr Morrison and offered his resignation which was rejected.

The Nationals leader said he had gotten to know the Prime Minister better and they had a solid working relationship.

Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud ruled out vying for the party’s top job on Tuesday.

“There are 21 of us in the party room that want to be leader, and sometimes it is your time, and sometimes it may never be your time,” Mr Littleproud told Sunrise.

“We are falling in behind Barnaby for the election.”

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