Malcolm Turnbull may be facing a fresh challenge to his leadership with a small group of Liberal MPs pushing for Peter Dutton to have another go.
But new polling shows a Dutton government would crash at the election to Bill Shorten, with voters picking the Labor leader over the former Home Affairs minister.
A defiant prime minister is holding on to his leadership with support from his two key lieutenants, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann.
Mr Dutton’s supporters circulated a letter on Wednesday night calling for the party room to meet.
“I understand there’s a petition. I understand that a couple of hours ago there were nine signatures on it,” Liberal MP Jane Prentice told reporters on Wednesday night.
— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) August 22, 2018
It was unclear how many MPs had actually seen and signed the letter and if any cabinet ministers were willing to shift their support from Mr Turnbull.
Mr Dutton admitted he’s calling Liberals to win support for a second challenge after failing 48 votes to 35 in a snap leadership ballot on Tuesday.
The electorate, however, appears to be supporting Mr Turnbull.
A Morgan poll of more than 1200 voters picked Mr Turnbull as the better prime minister over Mr Shorten, 52 per cent to 44.5 per cent.
But Mr Shorten thumped Mr Dutton 59 per cent to 36.5 per cent when voters were given the chance to pick between them.
“The iron laws of arithmetic confirmed my leadership of the Liberal Party,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
He was flanked by Mr Morrison and Senator Cormann, who gave him public votes of support.
“This is my leader and I’m ambitious for him,” Mr Morrison said, giving Mr Turnbull a hug.
“I support the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull,” added Senator Cormann.
Mr Dutton launched a media campaign on Wednesday morning, going on Melbourne radio to call for a royal commission into fuel and energy prices.
But Mr Morrison unleashed on Mr Dutton’s plan to take the GST off electricity prices, calling it a “budget blower” that would cost $7.5 billion over four years.
Mr Dutton’s push for another challenge lost some steam amid questions about his parliamentary eligibility over the public funding of childcare centres held under a family trust.
A parade of ministers who voted against Mr Turnbull were asked in parliament whether they supported him, and all answered yes.
Thursday is the last day of parliament until September 10, with the next scheduled Liberal partyroom meeting on September 11.