ACT Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson will take time in coming days to consider whether he should contest a likely leadership contest with his deputy, Alistair Coe, in the next couple of weeks following the Canberra Liberals’ defeat in yesterday’s ACT election.
Mr Hanson noted that it was the protocol and tradition that the leadership would become vacant once the full make-up of the Assembly was known and then MLAs would be invited to stand for leader and deputy leader.
“Whether I stand or not is a decision I’m yet to take, and it’s something I’ll discuss with the other members of the Liberal Party and my family over the next couple of weeks,” he said.
Was Alistair Coe a potential alternative?
“I think he’s a fantastic guy. We may end up being rivals for the leadership, but what I would say is that there’s no question in my mind that Alistair will lead the party one day, and I’m sure he’ll lead it to success.
“He’ll be the next leader of the Liberal Party, whether it’s in two weeks or further down the track, that’s just a matter for us to see.”
Mr Hanson reflected on his time as Opposition Leader to date positively, but noted that making his concession speech last night was tough.
“It was really disappointing to have to stand up in front of people who’ve worked so hard for so long and say that we hadn’t won. That was one of the hardest things I’d had to do in my life, to be honest,” he said.
“There have been highs and lows. The destination wasn’t where we wanted to end up, but the journey’s been fabulous and it’s been a real honour and a privilege to work in the Assembly with such good parliamentarians, such great staff, to work out there in the field with such wonderful candidates, to be part of a Liberal Party that has such a fine tradition both here in Canberra but also across Australia.
“So I have certainly enjoyed it, whether I continue on or not is a matter for decisions in a couple of weeks, but I’ll do what I think is right for the party.
“The other thing is, it might not be my decision … that’s the way politics works.”
Mr Hanson said he didn’t think there was much more he and his team could’ve done in their attempt to oust Labor and that the party would take some time to consider why it couldn’t form government over the next few weeks.
As to whether the Canberra Liberals’ strategy to focus their campaign on their opposition to light rail had been the right one, Mr Hanson held the line.
“Well, I suppose we’re not forming government, so that’s a point for future analysis, but the reality is that we stand by our view that light rail is the wrong option for Canberra,” he said.
“The politics of it might have been wrong, that’s for others to judge, but the policy was right.”
Asked about the performance of his deputy in Yerrabi, where the Liberals look likely to take only two seats, Mr Hanson praised Mr Coe.
“I think Alistair’s done a fantastic job and I think throughout the term, he has been the star performer in the Opposition,” he said.
“It was always going to be a difficult ask in Yerrabi, there’s no doubt about it, because people understand that south of the lake, the tram is very unpopular, there is a mood against the government, and that’s reflected in out vote.
“North of the lake, it’s somewhat different … I think Alistair did as best he possibly could.”
Meanwhile, ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr was celebrating with colleagues in Ainslie this afternoon.
He told journalists during a press conference that while it was possible one of the two likely Greens MLAs could join his cabinet, it would be unlikely that both would do so. He said he hoped to be able to hold one position in cabinet for a few months in order to later promote one of the new ALP members of the Assembly to the ministry.
“On a personal level, I’m delighted to no longer be the youngests member of Labor caucus,” he said.
“We’ve got new fresh faces who will be elected this time around.”
“I am considering in terms of the number of ministers, being able to leave a position vacant and bring someone in later on, once they’ve had that experience, so all of those options are available. We have seven ministers at the moment, Simon Corbell is retiring, so there are already vacancies.”
He described the Sex Party’s result in Brindabella, where Steven Bailey is still in contention for a seat, as “extraordinary”.
Greens leader Shane Rattenbury and Caroline Le Couteur, the candidate most likely to join him in the Assembly, stepped out of a party function to discuss the make-up of the Assembly and their agenda this afternoon, also.