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Contenders coy on taking key role

Date

Noel Towell

From left: Alistair Coe, Jeremy Hanson and Brendan Smyth.

From left: Alistair Coe, Jeremy Hanson and Brendan Smyth. Photo: Karleen Minney

Likely contenders for the Canberra Liberal leadership went to ground on Monday with none of the party's MLAs willing to declare their hand.

The opposition's eight MLAs will gather on Monday to decide who will replace Zed Seselja, who has announced that he is resigning as Liberal leader and making a preselection challenge to ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries.

Deputy leader Brendan Smyth and senior frontbencher Jeremy Hanson both declined to be interviewed in the wake of Mr Seselja's resignation announcement.

But party whip Alistair Coe, himself a potential contender for the leader or deputy leader's role, said that no one had ruled themselves in or out.

Speaking in his role as whip, the Ginninderra MLA said that he and Mr Seselja will convene the Liberal caucus meeting with the leader declaring his job open.

MLAs can then nominate themselves without having to declare their candidacy before to the meeting.

Mr Coe said that the following few days would be a "consultative time" for the Liberals

"All MLAs are in a consultative time and we are discussing our options and we are also discussing the imminent resignation of the leader," he said.

"I, in conjunction with the current Leader of the Opposition, will convene that meeting next Monday at which time the positions will be declared vacant."

Mr Coe said that Mr Seselja's time at the top had been a period of consistency and stability for the party.

He was confident that the systems and culture in place would see a smooth transfer of power.

"Zed has been leader for more than five years now and it is a departure from the only leader that a fair few of us have known," Mr Coe said.

"So it is a change, but we're confident that the systems that are in place and the culture that is present will last and will strengthen.

"I don't think anyone in the party room is ruling themselves in or ruling themselves out.

"We're at a stage when we're generally chatting amongst ourselves and seeing what the options are before we go making any statements."

Mr Seselja said that if successful in his preselection tilt he would most likely stay in the Assembly until August before leaving to campaign for the Senate.

His replacement in the Assembly chamber would then be decided by the "count-back" process.

The position would go to the runner-up Liberal candidate, the one who polled the most votes in Brindabella in October 2012 but without being elected.

Tharwa firefighting hero Val Jeffery, the most likely to prevail in a Brindabella count-back, said he was keeping his options open.

"I'm up and down at this point of time," Mr Jeffery said.

"It's too early for me to think seriously about this until we know what's going on."

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