Treasurer Scott Morrison is reportedly preparing to run against Peter Dutton to replace Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister.

Mr Turnbull has not resigned, but he lost several key allies on Thursday morning and it appears Mr Dutton has the numbers to force a challenge to his leadership.

Mr Morrison declared his support for Mr Turnbull on Wednesday, but multiple media outlets report he could now run for the top job if the prime minister steps aside.

Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O’Dwyer is tipped to stand as his deputy.

“I can’t ignore reality,” Senator Cormann said at Parliament House on Thursday, after meeting with Mr Turnbull.

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“When I have five cabinet colleagues telling me they supported Peter Dutton on Tuesday … that is not something I can ignore.”

He said he had taken the action “with great sadness and a heavy heart”.

Senator Cormann, who on Wednesday publicly expressed his support for the prime minister at a media conference, said he had taken it upon himself later on Wednesday to tell Mr Turnbull he no longer was supported by party colleagues.

He backed Mr Dutton but did not say why he represented the best chance of winning the next election.

“I’m not here to run a campaign for Peter Dutton,” he said.

“We’ve made that judgment and it is now a matter for the party room.”

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The former home affairs minister lost a challenge 48 votes to 35 on Tuesday but now wants to have another go at toppling his leader.

“Earlier this morning I called the prime minister to advise him that it was my judgment that the majority of the party room no longer supported his leadership,” Mr Dutton said on Thursday morning.

“As such, I asked him to convene a meeting of the Liberal Party at which I would challenge for the leadership.”

It is expected Mr Turnbull will resign, but his office has yet to comment.

Ministers and chief government whip Nola Marino have been in and out of his office all morning.

Mr Morrison is reportedly considering running for the top job and will try to win over the 48 MPs who voted for him in the ballot on Tuesday.

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Frontbencher Christopher Pyne said he is 100 per cent behind Mr Turnbull and will vote for him.

“I will stick with him for as long as he is running for leader, which I believe will be until the party meeting and the ballot,” Mr Pyne said.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR LIBERAL LEADERSHIP?

* Liberal partyroom meeting is needed to decide on future leadership.

* The winner of the Liberal partyroom ballot will become parliamentary party leader.

* Malcolm Turnbull would then tender his resignation to the Governor-General.

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* The Liberal leader would be recommended to the Governor-General to become Australia’s 30th prime minister.

* In parliament, Labor could move a “no confidence” motion to test the government’s majority. The Liberal-National coalition has a one-seat majority. But some Nationals MPs have pledged to sit on crossbench if the prime minister changes.

* The government already has budget “supply” until July 2019.

* The Governor-General would issue the instrument of appointment and oath of office to the new prime minister, and most likely swear in a handful of key cabinet ministers including Treasurer.

AAP

WSFM 101.7 Sydney