Rumours are snowballing online that Defence Minister Peter Dutton could try to topple Scott Morrison for the Liberal Party leadership ahead of the next election.
Mr Dutton has performed a media blitz over the past week, talking to multiple press outlets about his concerns over the threat of China and delivering an impassioned speech at the National Press Club on Friday.
Labor senator Penny Wong took the opportunity to throw more fuel on the fire about a potential leadership spill, declaring Mr Dutton has officially “auditioned” for the role of prime minister.
“Today Peter Dutton auditioned for Scott Morrison’s job,” Senator Wong wrote on Twitter
“With Mr Morrison looking over his shoulder you can expect more desperate political tactics ahead.”
The hashtag #libspill has received thousands of hits on Twitter since the beginning of the week.
Some have also taken to Facebook to create memes that joke about Mr Dutton wanting to stab Mr Morrison in the back.
But Mr Dutton remained tight-lipped about the rumours when questioned on Friday, joking he would not seek to take over the prime ministership for another 28 years.
“Have you said that you have ambition, still, for the leadership of the party?” one reporter asked.
“I haven’t been expressed about this but when the Morrison government comes to an end and when the Prime Minister retires in 2049 I’ve suggested that I, as a young man, would be available if the party saw fit,” Mr Dutton said.
“So ask me again around 2048 and we’ll see how we go.”
Mr Dutton lost the leadership vote to Mr Morrison 45 votes to 40 in 2018.
The revived speculation about the future of the Liberal leadership comes as Mr Morrison struggles to regain his previous popularity with Aussie voters.
While Mr Morrison’s popularity as prime minister remains ahead of Labor leader Anthony Albanese, the latest Newspoll shows the Coalition is trailing the Labor Party 47 to 53 per cent.
If this result was emulated at an election, Mr Morrison would experience a resounding loss.
With an election due anytime between January and May of 2022, Australians are bracing for a tense political race.