Liberal Senator Gary Humphries. Photo: Andrew Meares
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries is welcoming the election of Jeremy Hanson to lead the ACT Liberals while standing behind his comments that a deal had been done to give the job to Alistair Coe.
Senator Humphries said on Sunday an agreement had been reached that Mr Coe, 29, who controls 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, I think that is a welcome development," Senator Humphries said on Tuesday.
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.
"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."
Asked if he believed the election of the relatively youthful Mr Coe would be "bad optics" for the ACT Liberals, Senator Humphries said: “I've said that I think Jeremy's election is the best outcome for the party and that's as much I'll say about the candidates.
"You can draw whatever conclusions you want about what I think about alternative candidates."
Pressed the issue, he referred to his previous answer.
“I'm saying only what I've just said to you, that I'm pleased Jeremy's been elected and I think the party room's made a good choice."
In Monday's ballot at the Legislative Assembly, Mr Coe did not nominate for the top job despite the speculation he had done a deal with Mr Seselja for the leadership.
Instead, Mr Coe was elected unopposed to the deputy leader's role after Mr Hanson's defeat of Brendan Smyth.