‘A pox on both houses’: Dutton says major parties lost voter trust

New Liberal leader Peter Dutton admits voters "had enough" after the party's worst federal result in 25 years saw the Coalition ejected from office after almost a decade in power.

Dutton was elected unopposed as leader of the party, alongside deputy Sussan Ley, after former prime minister Scott Morrison stepped down.

He said both major parties appeared to have lost the trust of the electorate.

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"In many cases we saw Labor's primary vote go backwards," he said.

"People are saying it's a pox on both houses, we're not too keen on either. Our chance now is to rebuild and have the policies in place."

Dutton, whose public image is that of a hardline government enforcer, said that he had been forced to make "tough calls" as home affairs minister and defence minister.

"In this job I can talk about issues important to people," he said.

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"I think people want good policy, helping small businesses, micro businesses, families with child care costs."

Other focuses for the Liberals will include bringing more women into the party, he said.

Dutton also pledged to support the new government as it worked to counter China's influence in the Pacific and strengthen relationships with island neighbours.

The stance is a return to old norms for the Liberal party, which prior to the election accused Labor of being soft on China and the preferred Australian government of Beijing.

"I think (Foreign Minister) Penny Wong, like Marise Payne before her, is happy to work on relationships and get the best outcomes for her country," he said.

"When it comes to the foreign matters we'll be a constructive opposition, we'll support good policy where we see it, we'll call out bad policy where we don't believe it is the best for the country."

But he rejected the assertion that Australia could minimalise Chinese influence in the region with a stronger focus on climate change.

Dutton also signalled that a new – albeit smaller – domestic political contest could be around the corner, with Morrison perhaps opting to leave Parliament.

"I think his intention is to sit on the back bench and reassess where he is at in six or 12 months time," Dutton said.

Dutton will work as part of a Queensland leadership duo for the Coalition after Maranoa MP David Littleproud was elected as party leader for the Nationals yesterday.

Littleproud ousted incumbent Barnaby Joyce, while Senator Perin Davey was elected as deputy leader.

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"This wasn't a reflection on Barnaby Joyce in any shape or form, but this was more about who was prepared to lead the party to 2025," Littleproud told Today.

"That journey has to start now, not in 12 months' time. It is a long journey, one we need to clearly articulate to the people, particularly of rural and regional Australia, that we respect, that we do have cogent policies that represent them."

Littleproud played down suggestions of ongoing divisions in the party room, saying he would draw on Joyce's experience, and that divisive Senator Matt Canavan's views on climate change should be "celebrated".

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Barnaby Joyce has served as the 17th deputy prime minister of Australia under Malcolm Turnbull from 2016 to 2018 and Scott Morrison from 2021 to 2022.

"Divergent views are healthy," he said.

"I want to create a constructive environment for constructive conversation, not only within my own party room, but with the government as well."

The Nationals retained all their seats at the May 21 election, though several party MPs saw swings against them.

Their coalition partners the Liberals were turfed from government after losing a slew of urban seats to pro-climate action Independents.

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Littleproud said he believed Dutton could lead the Coalition to electoral victory.

"You don't win elections chasing extremities, you have to be sensible, and that's what the Nats do," he said.

"I'm not going to lurch left or right."

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