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Peter Dutton emerges as frontrunner as Liberals seek new leader to replace Scott Morrison

Peter Dutton is emerging as a frontrunner to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader (ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Liberal politicians have begun jostling to replace outgoing Prime Minister Scott Morrison as party leader after Labor seized government from the Coalition. 

Mr Morrison last night took responsibility for the loss and said he would step down as Liberal leader.

The biggest Liberal losses in the election were to independent women, the "teal" candidates, who were running on integrity and climate policies.

Party insiders say Defence Minister Peter Dutton is the frontrunner to be the next Liberal leader. 

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg's likely loss in his once-safe Melbourne seat has thrown open the leadership battle since he was most likely to lead the Liberals in opposition.

Karen Andrews became the Home Affairs Minister last year. (ABC News: Luke Stephenson)

Queensland MP Karen Andrews called a Sunday morning press conference where she talked about her national security credentials and said it was time for her party to reflect on the loss.

She said it was "way too early to have a discussion about leadership" when asked if she would nominate for the position.

"I am not commenting on any leadership speculation," she said.

Ms Andrews was among the first women to speak out about the culture in her party, saying she had "had a gutful" when revelations emerged about the treatment of women in Parliament House.

Party sources suggested Trade Minister Dan Tehan and Industry Minister Angus Taylor were also possible candidates.

When Ms Andrews first entered politics, she beat Mr Dutton in pre-selection when he was seeking to shift from his marginal Brisbane seat of Dickson to the safer Gold Coast seat of McPherson.

Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham have both urged the Liberal Party to recruit more women and reassess its climate policies. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Mr Frydenberg, once seen as a future Liberal prime minister, looks set to be the biggest victim of the Coalition's loss but has left open the possibility of returning to politics.

"I still have fire in my belly," he said.

The outgoing deputy leader said his party needed to get more women into Liberal ranks and that Australia had not been served well by culture wars on climate change. 

Moderates the biggest losers in election result

The bulk of Liberals to lose their seats to independents are moderates. 

Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, the leader of the moderates, also backed the need for more women. He said on Sunday morning that the Liberals needed to go further on tackling climate change.

"When you then look at where we have lost and particularly traditionally heartland seats, that is perhaps the loudest message to the Liberal Party and it's the one we are going to have to heed most strongly," he said.

Mr Morrison's hand-picked candidate in a once-safe Liberal seat, Katherine Deves, attracted headlines throughout the campaign for anti-trans comments. 

She was comfortably defeated by independent Zali Steggall, who secured a second term representing Warringah.

Senator Birmingham said Ms Deves's candidacy proved damaging to moderate Liberals, particularly Trent Zimmerman in the neighbouring seat of North Sydney. 

"They are being punished by association with candidates in adjacent seats, and in Trent's case there are no more adjacent seats than North Sydney and Warringah," he said on Saturday night.

"So you are seeing a real contagion effect.

"That’s a real devastating blow because it is people like Trent who we need to make sure the party rebuilds the vote in the communities that we have clearly lost and the voters we have clearly lost, and yet we’re going to be missing some of those crucial people."

'Very difficult to retain Kooyong': Frydenberg