ACT Liberals Alistair Coe, Jeremy Hanson, Vicki Dunne and Zed Seselja at the Service of prayer and worship to mark the opening of the 2013 parliamentary year of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT, at St Paul's Anglican Church Manuka. Photo: Jay Cronan
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries has taken credit for derailing the leadership ambitions of Canberra Liberals MLA Alistair Coe.
Senator Humphries said on Tuesday Mr Coe's failure to land the top job was a ''byproduct'' of his decision to go public on the eve of the leadership ballot with claims of a secret deal between Mr Coe and outgoing party leader Zed Seselja.
The embattled Senator is facing a determined challenge from Mr Seselja for the right to re-contest the Liberals' ACT upper house seat.
Jeremy Hanson at the Service of prayer and worship to mark the opening of the 2013 parliamentary year of the Legislative Assembly for the ACT, at St Paul's Anglican Church Manuka. Photo: Jay Cronan
Senator Humphries told Fairfax Media on Sunday Mr Coe had been promised the leadership in return for swinging Young Liberal votes behind Mr Seselja's preselection effort.
Both the MLAs have denied there was a deal and Mr Coe attacked the newspaper on ABC radio on Tuesday.
The Ginninderra MLA said later in the day Mr Humphries' remarks were disappointing and directly benefited the party's Labor opponents.
The exchanges mark an escalation in the conflict over Mr Seselja's challenge to the 10-year Senate veteran with another group of Liberal members planning an attempt under the party's constitution to overturn the preselection process.
Mr Coe was elected deputy leader on Monday in a ballot of the Liberals' eight MLAs after Jeremy Hanson defeated former leader and deputy leader Brendan Smyth for the top job left vacant by Mr Seselja's resignation.
Senator Humphries said on Sunday an agreement had been reached that Mr Coe, who controls the votes of large numbers within the Young Liberals, would support Zed Seselja's preselection bid against Senator Humphries, in exchange for the opposition leadership.
''I stand by the comments I made to The Canberra Times on Sunday and in fact I'm pleased that the publication of that story in The Canberra Times on Monday contributed to a decision in the Assembly not to proceed with the plan I had described,'' Senator Humphries said on Tuesday. ''I think that is a welcome development.''
Asked if he made the comments to block Mr Coe, he said: ''No, I didn't put the story out there for that purpose, it is a byproduct of that story having appeared that he wasn't elected.'' Mr Coe said in a statement
the Senator's action were disappointing and again denied he and Mr Seselja had made an agreement.
''Gary Humphries' admission that he 'put the story out' is extremely disappointing,'' Mr Coe said. ''The allegation of a deal was false, insulting to all Liberal MLAs and to Labor's advantage.
''The Senator said the Assembly caucus had chosen the best person for the leadership job.
''I am happy that the Assembly colleagues have decided to elect Jeremy Hanson, I think they've made the best choice. I think he's really had the runs on the board in the last Assembly and he now has the experience and the understanding to take on this role and make it really work.
''I'm very optimistic that under him the Liberals can win in 2016.
''I think Jeremy will make a great contribution in terms of giving the opposition the ammunition it needs to convince Canberrans that they are a good alternative government, not just a good opposition …
''That's as much I'll say about the candidates. You can draw whatever conclusions you want about what I think about alternative candidates.''