At least 10 ministers have offered to resign after voting against the prime minister in a snap leadership ballot on Tuesday, but most were rebuffed and will remain on the front bench.
Mr Turnbull defeated his ex-home affairs minister 48 votes to 35 in the Liberal leadership spill, but Mr Dutton is now working the phones ahead of a second tilt.
“I am not going to beat around the bush on that, I am speaking to colleagues,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW radio.
“You don’t go into a ballot believing you’re going to lose and if I believe that a majority of colleagues support me, then I would consider my position.”
Backers of Mr Dutton believe his support levels are quickly climbing.
“Now that the genie is out of the bottle, I’m not sure we can put it back,” Liberal MP Craig Kelly told the ABC.
Mr Dutton has started a media campaign to reach out to Australian voters, with migration, energy and fuel prices in his sights.
I suspect wiser heads have prevailed and another challenge will happen this week. There was absolutely no point in waiting 2-3 weeks. #auspol
— Daniel Breban (@DBreban) August 21, 2018
He called for a royal commission on fuel and energy prices, and said he would consider removing the GST on electricity for families and pensioners.
He also pledged to cut Australia’s immigration intake if elected leader.
“We have to cut the numbers back (but) I haven’t got a number to give to you today,” Mr Dutton told 3AW.
At least 10 ministers including four from cabinet offered to stand down after voting against Mr Turnbull, but so far he has only accepted two of their resignations, including that of Mr Dutton.
He also dropped International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells after she wrote a scathing letter criticising the Liberal party for “drifting too far to the left”.
Mr Turnbull, who has not made any media appearances on Wednesday, has called for unity after fending off the leadership threat.
“We’ve got to put 25 million Australians first. They hate it when we are talking about each other,” he said on Tuesday.
But some Liberal MPs believe his position is terminal.
“I think there was a shift after the partyroom meeting with the offers of resignation by a considerable number of ministers,” Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said.
Meanwhile, at least three Nationals MPs, including Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester, are threatening to quit the coalition and move to the cross bench if Mr Dutton seizes power.
“All options are on the table in a volatile environment,” Mr Chester told the ABC.
PM Malcolm Turnbull should be allowed to serve a full term. It’s up to the Australian people to decide our fate at the next election. MPs seeking personal vengeance shouldn’t corrupt the democratic process. We need to focus on the issues that matter to Australians. #auspol
— Darren Chester MP (@DarrenChesterMP) August 20, 2018
Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce counselled Mr Chester to remember: “We don’t have a dog in this fight, it’s for the Liberal Party.”
Victorian Nationals MP Damian Drum said if the Liberals do change leaders, they will need to redraft the coalition agreement.
Don’t know what’s happening in Canberra? Mamamia Out Loud speaks to the woman who broke the #libspill story, Sharri Markson….
A leadership change could also trigger an early general election, which could be a hindrance for cash-strapped state Liberal branches still finalising their candidates.
Mr Dutton says he ran because he believed he was the best option to head off a Shorten Labor government.
Contributing to Mr Turnbull’s leadership woes are a string of poor public polls and internal anger over his government’s energy and climate change policies.