As predicted in the RiotACT on Saturday, the Canberra Liberals have voted in a new leadership team consisting of conservative former deputy leader Alistair Coe and his moderate Member for Brindabella colleague Nicole Lawder.
The pair were elected unopposed, with former Opposition Leader Jeremy Hanson choosing not to run for either position.
Mr Coe said the team had been elected to take the Liberals through to the 2020 election.
“We’re both very excited about the opportunity that we have to make Canberra an even better place,” he said.
“Canberra’s a wonderful place. I was born here, I’ve spent my whole life here, I’m absolutely committed to Canberra, and I’m honoured by the trust that my colleagues have put in myself and Nicole Lawder to take us forward to the next election.”
He said there were challenges for the city, not least that we were at risk of becoming a two-pace society.
“At present, there is a population that can afford the rising cost of living, that can afford the cost of housing, that can afford all the other increases that we see on a daily basis,” he said.
“However, there’s also a large proportion of Canberrans that simply cannot keep pace with the cost of living in Canberra, and I’m very concerned about that.”
“We need to make sure that the ACT Government, and the ACT community, looks after all Canberrans. We cannot be a narrow government, we have to be a broad government.”
The RiotACT predicted the elevation of Ms Lawder following the confirmation of her re-election in Brindabella on Saturday.
The Canberra Liberals were expected to choose a combination that was balanced in terms of age, gender and political stance in a bid to broaden their appeal in the progressive Canberra electorate.
Ms Lawder told the RiotACT prior to the ACT election that she was often asked about why she was a member of the Liberals given her background in the community sector.
“I sometimes say to people I’m about as far to the left of the Liberal Party as you can get,” Ms Lawder said at the time.
She had not been expecting to be considered for the role prior to this week, but said she was humbled by the trust her colleagues had placed in her.
“I’m very much looking forward to working with Alistair as the leader and the rest of my colleagues to make Canberra a better place,” Ms Lawder said.
“As many of you know, I’m very much connected to the community. I came from the community sector, and that’s something that I’ll be continuing to focus on.”
Ms Lawder said that she and Mr Coe had a good mix of skills and experience to bring to the leadership team.
“A new team always brings some new ideas,” she said.
“That doesn’t mean that the old ideas weren’t good, but it’s just a different way of working.
“There are things that obviously things that we might look to change, and listening to our colleagues and listening to party members and the broader Canberra community will be the first step.”
Asked about whether she had been selected to ensure a particular gender or ideological mix in the leadership team, Ms Lawder responded that she didn’t think so.
“I would certainly encourage you to think that I’ve been elected on my merits … I feel I have a lot to bring to the table.”
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said this afternoon that he had contacted Mr Coe and Ms Lawder to congratulate them on their election.
“Given the conservative nature of the Canberra Liberals we won’t often agree on policy and politics,” he said.
“However, I hope there are some issues where we can find common ground and work together in the Assembly.
“I would also like to acknowledge former Canberra Liberals Leader Jeremy Hanson. As I mentioned on election night, Mr Hanson fought a hard but fair election that was, in the main, focused on policy issues. I again thank him for that.”
Mr Barr said Mr Coe’s appointment represented “a further lurch to the right” for the Liberals.
“After Canberrans voted so decisively for light rail, elevating the individual that has spent the last few years crusading against the project is passing strange,” he said.