5 December 2023

Jeremy Hanson's 'ratbaggery' one reason the Canberra Liberals have a new deputy leader

| Claire Fenwicke
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Elizabeth Lee and Leanne Castley

Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee and new deputy leader Leanne Castley said there needed to be ‘strong’ party leadership before the 2024 election. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Former Canberra Liberals deputy leader Jeremy Hanson appears to have been turfed for a more moderate-looking party, with no real explanation about why he had to go.

Both Canberra Liberals leader Elizabeth Lee and new deputy leader Leanne Castley stressed the importance of leadership “in lockstep” and presenting a “united front” when facing the media yesterday (4 November).

But when asked a variety of questions about the removal of Mr Hanson – including if he had been asked to resign, if his vision was too conservative, if/when Ms Lee had lost confidence in her deputy leader, how long this change had been on the cards and if it had been Ms Lee who called the spill – the common line was that this was a “party room decision”.

“The party room has spoken,” Ms Lee said.

“Every member gets a vote and every member had a say.”

Ms Lee spoke of needing a “strong” leadership team ahead of next year’s election and the importance of securing the team now.

“October ’24 will be an opportunity for all Canberrans to have their say in who is going to lead the ACT Legislative Assembly, and it’s important that we put forward our best team,” she said.

“It’s important to know that Leanne is going to be backing me 100 per cent [and] the party direction that we are going to take, and the Canberra Liberals are in lockstep in how we want to take the future of Canberra [forward].

“Our primary focus will be to ensure that the Canberra community has a genuine, alternative government when it comes to October ’24.”

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Ms Castley wouldn’t confirm if conversations had been had with her about the deputy leadership spill before it happened.

“When the opportunity presented itself, I thought ‘yes, let’s have a go at this’, because I do believe we need that strong team, and I’m here for that,” she said.

“This has happened very quickly … I am just getting my feet under the table and looking forward to having conversations over the next few weeks and hitting the ground running.”

The party hasn’t released the final numbers for the vote to remove Mr Hanson; however, Ms Castley still felt the party room could continue working together ahead of the election.

“I have my eyes on supporting Elizabeth,” she said.

“We are looking forward to telling the electorate what a Liberal government looks like because we’re ready, and Canberra’s prepared for a change.

“2024: watch us shine.”

Mr Hanson issued a brief statement explaining he was “disappointed” with the decision but promised to continue representing the community as part of the Canberra Liberals team.

He declined to comment further.

When asked by Region if the leadership change would leave conservative voters feeling unrepresented, Ms Lee insisted Mr Hanson “absolutely” still had a place in the party.

“I know this sounds like a cliché, but [the party] is a broad church. There is a diversity views across our party, but that reflects the diversity of views that we have across the community,” she said.

“Mr Hanson is still very much part of the Canberra Liberals party room generally, and I respect and listen to all views of all the MLAs within the Canberra Liberals.”

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Mr Hanson’s removal as deputy leader appears to be part of a shift from conversative to more moderate views in the Canberra Liberals.

It’s understood Mr Hanson campaigned for Canberra Liberals president John Cziesla to keep his job and then argued for Mr Cziesla to be re-installed temporarily after losing to an empty chair at a recent AGM.

One Liberal source questioned how Mr Hanson didn’t realise his deputy leadership was in a tenuous position.

“How long did he expect the party room to tolerate his constant ratbaggery?” they said.

Jeremy Hanson MLA.

Jeremy Hanson declined to comment further on what had happened in the party room when approached by Region. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said presenting Ms Castley as a moderate was “laughable”.

“Clearly, the Canberra Liberals are deeply divided in their party room, and Canberrans should be wary of the deep-seated conservatism within the party,” he said.

“The direction that Peter Dutton is taking the party at the Federal level is obviously having an impact at the local level.

“They are all conservatives at heart – it is just a question of degree.”

Ms Castley will be the third deputy leader that Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry has had to work with this term.

While Ms Berry supported having women in positions of power, she also questioned Ms Castley’s ‘moderate’ status.

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This is errant nonsense Jeremy Hanson should have been retained. Is this just a move to say the gender balance is being improved.

The change may not alter the election result but at least it is an indication that the Canberra Liberals are beginning to understand their constituency. It beggar’s belief that the conservative element of the party thinks it can keep peddling its outdated views/policies and win government … in the only jurisdiction in the country to vote Yes in the referendum and the one with the highest level of support for marriage equality. The electorate is desperate for a viable alternative; this is a small step in that direction.

HiddenDragon8:05 pm 05 Dec 23

Here we go again – it’s like clockwork – in the lead-up to every ACT election for more than a decade now we get the culture wars scare campaign from a government which very obviously doesn’t want swinging voters to focus on what they’re actually getting in return for the taxes they pay.

The rusted on will vote how they always vote. This is only important to the swinging voter. Barr is obviously unsettled by it other he would not have commented, particularly bringing Dutton into to it. He would know Labor kept most of the controversial policies that the Liberals brought in Federally to maintain popularity and locally the Libs are finally realising what they must do to win, ie: becoming more moderate.

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