There's a method to Peter Dutton's media moves of late.
Even as the Defence Minister largely dislikes interacting with journalists.
There's been a recent wide-ranging 20 years in politics anniversary interview, his increasingly cuddly weekly appearances on the Today Show and his relentless, very public picking of fights with Labor luminaries over China.
And at Friday's National Press Club address, as he hawkishly talked around China and prospects of conflict in the region, the Queensland hard man tried humour as he sparred with the National Press Club president and ABC 7.30 chief political correspondent Laura Tingle.
"I watch you on 7.30 giving the government a hiding every night. The great joy during isolation to watch every night," Mr Dutton said with a self-deprecating reference to his hair having, "no chance of growing back".
Be in no doubt, a PR campaign is cranking up for a man with known and unwavering ambition. The Queensland hard man has been letting you, and his party colleagues, know he is here.
So asked specifically on Friday to "rule out a Peter Dutton Opposition Leader"-type tilt, he tried the humour road again in saying "yes".
"If I can read between the lines is that you think I look much younger than I am, because - I haven't been expressed about this, but when the Morrison government comes to an end and when the Prime Minister retires in 2049," he told the crowd.
"All I've suggested is that I, as a young man, would be available, if the party saw fit.
"So ask me again around 2048 and we'll see how we go."
That's not talking about a leadership challenge in government.
Importantly, even as Scott Morrison's authority is being tested by rogue MPs and senators over mandatory vaccination, a federal ICAC and religious discrimination, there are no whispers the Prime Minister's leadership is in any sort trouble.
What we are most definitely seeing is positioning. The leading Liberal contenders are Mr Dutton and the nominal heir apparent, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
"Peter Dutton's Press Club appearance was clearly an audition for Scott Morrison's job," Labor's Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong told The Canberra Times.
"Amping up the prospect of war against a superpower for his own political interests is a dangerous tactic - and it should be called out.
"With Mr Morrison looking over his shoulder you can expect more desperate political tactics ahead."
Mr Dutton and ambition has been a theme for years.
He was in a funk after losing the 2018 leadership fight to Scott Morrison and he has re-emerged energised.
He is a straight-talking Queenslander, a stark contrast to a disassembling New South Welshman.
"There's no point in mincing words and I'm not widely known for doing that," he said to laughter on Friday.
But while the former policeman is letting Australians and his party know he is here, he is mostly doing it by letting China know he is here, too.
The Defence Minister appears keen to be the prime antagonist for a national security election fight.
He's talking up prospects of conflict over Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands, while hoping for peace.
"If China takes a path other than peace - it's catastrophic. I don't want to see it and I'll do everything I can to deter and we'll deter it from a position of strength, not weakness," he told the National Press Club.
He derided the Opposition as weak.
"I think it's time for Labor to step up," he said.
"When I was last in government, they ripped money out of defence."
It just so happened news emerged on Thursday of a sophisticated Chinese spy ship sitting off Australia three months ago, leading to the minister saying this was "why Australia has to be strong and stands up for our values."
The Chinese Embassy was on Thursday quick to show displeasure, describing the Defence Minister's Press Club address as "distorting" and "misguiding" the Australian people on regional situations and priorities and "fanning conflict and division."
National security might be an election winner, but is poking the dragon the fight Australia wants to have?