Malcolm Turnbull, Communications Minister

Turnbull is the front-runner and is widely tipped to replace Tony Abbott whenever the opportunity arises. He has all the attributes needed to become a prime minister. He is capable and competent, has experience as a leader and been the leader of the party.

More importantly, he has good approval ratings as a preferred prime ministerial candidate, 39 against 24 for Julie Bishop and 19 for Tony Abbott. He was the party leader and was defeated by Tony Abbott in a leadership spill in December 2009. He lost by only one vote, 43-42 in the second round. He has rebuffed any talk of challenging the prime minister and says “every single” member of the coalition party room supports the prime minister. But when a vacancy arises, it is believed he will go for it.

Julie Bishop, Foreign Minister and Deputy Party Leader

Bishop has been the minister for foreign affairs since 2013 and deputy leader of the Liberal Party since 2007. She also served in the Howard government from 2003 until the Liberals were defeated in 2007. Her support was crucial to Prime Minister Abbott when he faced the leadership spill last month. She remained loyal to her leader and is still not a part of any effort to destabilise him. She was reportedly approached by colleagues to form a ticket with Turnbull in a bid to replace the prime minister, but declined and decided she would run for the top job if the leadership was spilled. Some analysts believe Bishop’s chances of becoming Liberal leader will improve if the leadership controversy lingers.

Scott Morrison, Minister of Social Services

He was described as the star of the federal government for his performance as the minister of immigration. Morrison was described by a journalist as biggest game changer who stopped the boats carrying refugees and largely emptied the detention centres. He was later given a new challenging portfolio of Social Services. He is a new generation politician, several years younger than other contenders with leadership ambitions. He remained loyal to his leader during the last month’s spill and denies he has ambitions to become Treasurer under a Turnbull-led government. He has been touted as a key figure in any prime ministerial challenge.