He might have tried to sell his softer side, but Peter Dutton's reputation as one of Canberra's most polarising, hard-line figures was likely a critical factor in why he lost his bid to become Australia's prime minister.

The would-be Liberal leader lost a second challenge for Malcolm Turnbull's leadership today to Scott Morrison.

Australian Immigration Minister Dutton's recent stoush with Justice Minister Andrew Little over deportation of Kiwi criminals highlighted his unyeilding approach.

These are the groups he has made fierce enemies of.

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NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand has repeatedly expressed upset over the past several months at decisions by Dutton's department to deport its citizens from Australia.

Last month, Little dubbed the actions of Dutton "airy fairy" and "nebulous".

In using his discretion to cancel visas of people he believed did not pass the "character test", he is accused of sending home a number of Kiwis with only minor records.

An incensed Dutton hit back, criticising New Zealand's contribution to regional defence and saying Australia does "the heavy lifting" in the relationship.

DOCTORS

The influential magazine Australian Doctor declared Dutton the worst health minister in 35 years, after a poll of its readers.

It was sparked predominantly by his disastrous A$7 Medicare co-payment policy, which GPs said would hike up the cost of seeing a doctor for patients.

It was seen as a bid to end the practice of bulk billing. He also oversaw billions of dollars in cuts to the health system.

One surveyed physician summed up the feeling of the medical community, saying: "Dutton will be remembered as the dullest, least innovative and most gullible (minister)."

When he moved to the immigration portfolio, Dutton also got doctors off-side by maintaining a strict gag order on those who treated refugees in offshore detention centres.

Many risked prosecution if they shared their concerns about welfare or conditions to journalists or advocacy groups, prompting a swift backlash from lobby groups.

DUSTIN MARTIN

Last year when the Richmond Tigers prepared for premiership glory, star player Dustin "Dusty" Martin was preoccupied with a family drama.

His father Shane had been deported to New Zealand several months earlier when Mr Dutton cancelled his visa, citing Martin's criminal record and links to a bikie gang.

In the lead-up to the grand final, he appealed to the department and asked to be allowed to return to see his son play at the MCG.

The request was denied, as was another to come back for Christmas. In July this year, the Federal Court quashed Dutton's decision.

SOUTH AFRICA

The South African government was furious when Dutton suggested white farmers there were being "persecuted" based on race and should be granted humanitarian protection by Australia.

The country's Foreign Ministry rejected the claim and demand he retract his comments and apologise.

"The South African government is offended by the statements, which have been attributed to the Australian Home Affairs Minister and a full retraction is expected," a spokesman said.

Dutton did not retract his remarks.

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS

When then-prime minister Kevin Rudd made a historic apology in the parliament to the Stolen Generations, the chamber was packed.

Thousands more watched big screens erected outside, while politicians of all persuasions participated in the moving event.

But Dutton boycotted. He was one of only a handful of MPs who refused to attend Rudd's apology to indigenous Australians who had been forcibly taken from their families.

Asked about the decision in 2010 while appearing on ABC's Q&A programme, Dutton said he had no regrets and viewed it as "tokenism".

REFUGEE ADVOCATES

Those who want Australia to cease its offshore detention policy and take in more refugees are not fans of Dutton.

They saw the hard-line, uncompromising home affairs minister as cruel and inhumane. He regularly fought in court to deny or delay medical evacuations to Australia.

Despite claiming that children had been removed from detention camps, that was not the case.

His approach to policy has regularly attracted condemnation from the United Nations, Amnesty International and aid groups such as World Vision.

In response to a plea from the Greens to boost Australia's intake, Dutton said "illiterate and innumerate" asylum seekers would take local jobs or misuse welfare provisions.

LGBTI COMMUNITY

The notion of holding a plebiscite on same-sex marriage was former PM Tony Abbott's, but it was apparently at Dutton's urging that it be held via a postal vote.

Members of the LGBTI community felt it was an attempt to dilute the legitimacy of the result and discourage young people from participating.

Dutton also campaigned strongly against marriage equality, throwing his support behind the No campaign.

PACIFIC NATIONS

While posing for a photograph with Abbott and Scott Morrison, Dutton was caught on microphone joking about rising sea levels swamping Pacific nations.

The trio had just returned from talks in Papua New Guinea that focused on the risk of climate change to Pacific Island communities.

"It was a bad joke by a minister who is a bad joke," Bill Shorten said.

MELBOURNE

In a bid to fuel the "African gangs" narrative, Dutton claimed that Melburnians were "scared to go out to restaurants" in an interview in January.

The Queenslander copped a fierce rebuke from residents of the Victorian capital, who apparently take great pride in their culinary culture.

JOURNALISTS

Dutton's departments have been some of the most inflexible when it comes to freedom of information requests from members of the media.

His media advisers have also taken a more aggressive tack with journalists than others, with reporters who criticise Dutton likely to receive a heated phone call or two.

Dutton famously sent a text message about a political reporter, calling her a "mad f***ing witch". The SMS was meant for someone else.

MALCOLM TURNBULL

The newest enemy Dutton can add to his long list of foes is Turnbull, the man he unsuccessfully rolled for the top job.