Dutton Is Laying Out His 'Softer Side' Election Strategy

Attempts to gloss over much-maligned refugees record as immigration minister

Peter Dutton has lost the battle but is already laying on the charm offensive to win the war, using his first TV interview as a backbencher to gloss over his record on refugees as immigration minister and saying he wants to "smile and maybe show a different side".

Dutton came up short in Tuesday's challenge against Malcolm Turnbull, but will be buoyed by the fact he only has to flip a handful of votes at any subsequent challenge to be named Prime Minister.

He has since resigned from his home affairs portfolio -- replaced by Scott Morrison -- and has headed to the backbench. But in literally his first public comments after the leadership challenge, he signalled he was keen to show people a different side of his personality.

"It is good to be in front of the cameras where I can smile and maybe show a different side to what I show when I talk about border protection," he said, recognising that his regular stone-faced visage might not be the one many voters would cast a ballot for.

In what could be viewed as a pitch for support ahead of a second challenge, Dutton outlined what he said would be an election-winning strategy of lower power prices, infrastructure boosts and changes to the migration program.

He also raised the issue of housing affordability.

"We need to invest record amounts into health and education, aged care and other areas as well. I would like to contribute to public debates," he said.

But it was a Sky News interview, his first exclusive sit-down as a new backbencher, where he revealed more of his plan to win over colleagues and the public. Positioned squarely in front of large, prominent photos of his children, Dutton spoke about his "lighter side".

"I've got a self deprecating sense of humour, I like a drink like anybody else. It's an opportunity for me to talk a bit more about the other side the public might not know," he said.

In response to his time as the unflinching immigration minister, he claimed he would have brought refugees in Australian-run offshore detention centres to the mainland if he could.

"In the immigration portfolio you're defined by Nauru and Manus," he said.

"I'd love to get everyone off there tomorrow. If I could have brought them in a charter flight overnight I would have, but i'd have seen people drown at sea."

Just two months ago, the same man said "the hard-won success of the last few years could be undone overnight by a single act of compassion in bringing 20 people from Manus to Australia".

Dutton as minister also consistently opposed medical transfers of desperately sick refugees and asylum seekers from Manus or Nauru to Australia.

Several cases, such as a dying man needing palliative care and a critically ill young boy on a hunger strike, were only approved for medical transfer after sustained public campaigns.

But as we reported last weekend, it's a danger sign for a leader when his opponent is "selling his softer side".