Liberal leadership speculation: more mischief than Machiavelli?

Ian Bushnell 25 November 2019 17
Alistair Coe

Alistair Coe addressing the National Press Club recently.

Elizabeth Lee doesn’t want it. Mark Parton isn’t about to put his hand up. That doesn’t leave too many left to topple Alistair Coe as Opposition Leader, unless Jeremy Hanson wants another crack at the top job.

Although Hanson as leader would defeat the point of any party putsch if the justification for change was to give the Canberra Liberals more moderate appeal.

After a weekend of media speculation based on unknown Liberal sources saying MLAs were seriously canvassing such a change ahead of the last sitting period of the year, Elizabeth Lee tweeted that she was absolutely committed to bringing about a Canberra Liberals government in 2020 under the leadership of Alistair Coe and his deputy Nicole Lawder.

Ms Lee, who has recently had a baby, was considered to be the best bet to replace Mr Coe and, together with Guilia Jones, provide a more appealing team (as in less right-wing), to go into the October election.

The likeable former radio personality Mr Parton has previously been considered a potential leader but sources say he doesn’t want the job and may not be committed long term to the Assembly anyway.

Elizabeth Lee

Elizabeth Lee is considered to be more moderate. File photo.

Some say Andrew Wall does have ambitions but there is simply not enough support in the party room. Others such as Candice Burch have only been in the place five minutes.

Mr Coe wasn’t talking on Monday and it was left to party power broker Senator Zed Seselja to back the current leader and Ms Lawder to keep the team on message.

Senator Seselja said Mr Coe was doing a great job and on track for victory in October.

“What I’m hearing is that Alistair’s holding the government to account very strongly, particularly on higher taxes, failure to invest properly in health, and the failures around public transport and school buses,” he said.

Ms Lawder said the team was focused on winning government in 2020 and with Mr Coe all the way.

But she made the point that the party room made decisions, not just Mr Coe, when asked about whether he was too conservative for Canberra.

“Leading up to the election we’ll be making sure we’re representing the views of all Canberrans,” she said. “This is something that will make us stronger and more committed as we move closer to the October election.”

On that issue of Mr Coe being too conservative, Senator Seselja said that was a critique mostly made by Chief Minister Andrew Barr.

”There are a lot of Canberrans who may share Andrew Barr’s social views on a number of things but are not happy with his performance as Chief Minister,” he said.

And would Ms Lee make a good leader?

“I think we’ve got a number in that party room who do an outstanding job, we’re very blessed to have a great team,” he said.

Senator Seselja dismissed the speculation as having no substance but that it was not uncommon for oppositions to endure this sort of thing.

Indeed, the source of it remains a mystery and it may be more mischief than Machiavelli.

If anything is going to happen it should be in the next couple of weeks with the Assembly sitting, because it is unlikely any change would be considered next year.

But a clue to the party’s future might be seen in the results of preselections being conducted this week. That might provide the new blood some are wanting.

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17 Responses to Liberal leadership speculation: more mischief than Machiavelli?
Sol Sol 7:35 am 03 Dec 19

If anyone wants to know how Canberra Liberals think, just go here

jrsubs jrsubs 12:38 pm 29 Nov 19

Every single person whose opinion I know is fed up with Barr and Rattenbury and their multiple failings. But equally every single person thinks that the current Liberal mob are not a viable alternative: as mentioned here, too weirdly conservative and a general lack of apparent intellect and/or ability. The sense of frustration at having no viable choice is widespread.

I actually don’t mind Alistair Coe as far as can be judged, but he has exactly the same problem as Shorten – people won’t vote for him. Whatever his qualities and capability, “The Schoolboy” is unelectable because he just doesn’t give the impression of being up to the job, and his team are uninspiring to say the least.

What to do? Voter despair is in the air. Someone needs to convince Anthony Pesec to run locally for either of the major parties. Otherwise we have to vote independent, and we’ll need some goodn’s worth voting for … what’s the chance of that?

54-11 54-11 1:52 pm 27 Nov 19

If the Libs stay as they are, they’ll be wandering in the wilderness for another generation. That means we’ve got to put up with Barr and co for several terms at least. What an awful prospect.

petunia petal petunia petal 12:26 pm 27 Nov 19

Maybe it’s time to vote for independents Canberra, and hopefully some quality independents consider running (even though it’ll be hard to mount a challenge). Surely we have enough maturity as a jurisdiction to elect some independent minds who are principled, smart, authentic and not beholden to donors or climate denying troglodytes. They will only get a go if Canberrans decide they’ll vote for them.

bj_ACT bj_ACT 2:47 pm 26 Nov 19

Canberra Liberals can’t rely on people voting Liberal just because Mr Barr and his team have become so inept.

The Liberals have to provide an economic and social reason to win peoples votes.

Mr Coe and his conservative team just aren’t connecting with the social middle of canberra. This is where the election will be won or lost.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 10:45 am 26 Nov 19

Install Lee. Back light rail. Pursue Barr on over-development. Election won.

David Brown David Brown 8:44 am 26 Nov 19

I cannot vote for Barr or his lieutenant Rattenbury, but I could not vote for the two Coe alternatives mentioned. That would create a real bind for me.

Mark Chapman Mark Chapman 10:48 pm 25 Nov 19

So the Libs want Andrew Barr to continue as Chief Minister then? I'm pretty sure that a majority of Canberrans don't want Tony Abbott Jr here instead.

Kat Blackall Kat Blackall 9:21 pm 25 Nov 19

Regardless of their leader, they’ll still be the same bunch of conservative people like before. They’ll still continue to deny climate change, they’ll still deny multicultural rights, they’ll still deny ACT rights, they’ll still deny Marriage Equality rights and they’ll still cut Friday/weekend tram services.

Jeremy Hanson is a bad idea for the Libs. Given his track record in recent months about his approach to climate protesters on Twitter it seems like he has become more unpopular than he was in 2016.

Looking at his tweets:


I think they should focus on uniting each other and avoiding being too right wing in order for them to be a strong opposition and a strong party in the next election. Right now they are pretty unpopular and slack to many.

John Williams John Williams 9:07 pm 25 Nov 19

Everyone is aware that the media makes the decisions about these things and it seems this one has been made to the detriment of Mr Coe.

Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins 8:57 pm 25 Nov 19

I hope Elizabeth Lee changes her mind and puts her hand up. I don't think Coe can win but Liz would forsure!

    David Brown David Brown 8:44 am 26 Nov 19

    Alex Troy Elsworth Adkins If she does, the Libs will lose my vote.

Gabriel Spacca Gabriel Spacca 7:47 pm 25 Nov 19

Wait. A politician has declared their support in public? I’d be worried if I were Coe.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:37 pm 25 Nov 19

With the direct and indirect taxes imposed by the ACT Government rising at a faster rate than most incomes, the numbers of people who feel they have the luxury of voting on social issues – ahead of more immediate and practical concerns – will be steadily diminishing.

Sol Sol 6:55 pm 25 Nov 19

Sounds like Zed conspiring behind the scenes to take out Alistair, to fend off another threat if he loses, rather than do anything actually meaningful with his life.

Zed after all did set the proud precedent of losing his way up, so Alistair would be absolutely legitimate to do the same to Zed if he lost.

So this the state Team Zed have reduced the Canberra Liberals to.

Meanwhile, Canberra continues to suffer.

    Kent Street Kent Street 8:54 am 26 Nov 19

    Here we go again . . . . . . . . Zed, Zed, Zed, Abbott, Abbott, Abbot. Change the record.

Spiral Spiral 5:14 pm 25 Nov 19

Why would the Liberals want a more moderate leader?

If they had one they might actually win then they would have to rouse themselves from their torpor and actually do something.

It’s much easier just to stay in opposition.

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