Leadership vote shapes up as three horse race
From left, ACT Liberal leader Zed Seselja, Alistair Coe, Jeremy Hanson and Brendan Smyth. Photo: Karleen Minney
Canberra Liberals MLAs Brendan Smyth and Jeremy Hanson have emerged as front runners to lead the party when Zed Seselja resigns on Monday.
But the outgoing leader has warned that Ginninderra MLA Alistair Coe should not be ruled out of the race.
The party's eight-strong caucus will gather on Monday, the day before the Assembly sits for the first time this year, to elect a new leader to replace Mr Seselja, who is to challenge ACT Senator Gary Humphries for his upper house seat.
Mr Seselja said on Tuesday he had thoughts on which of his colleagues would make the best successor but he was not going to share those views with the media.
The Opposition Leader said Mr Hanson, Mr Smyth and Mr Coe had been the "standout performers" of the previous term.
The battle between Mr Smyth and Mr Hanson is a contest between an experienced former leader in Mr Smyth and an emerging force in Mr Hanson, who scored a strong vote at the October election in his electorate of Molonglo.
Mr Smyth is seen as a loyal and respected member of the Liberals leadership team, but has taken the party to three election defeats, once as leader in 2004 and twice as deputy.
Mr Hanson has just begun his second Assembly term with the party and was considered an outstanding frontbencher as both health and corrections spokesman.
Neither Mr Smyth nor Mr Hanson would be interviewed on Tuesday and Mr Seselja said there was much discussion to come before a decision is made.
"I haven't formed a final judgment, obviously I have some leanings at this stage and I've got some more discussions," he said.
Mr Seselja said Mr Smyth and Mr Hanson were "obvious" front runners for the leadership but Mr Coe was not out of the race and was considered a chance for deputy.
"Brendan has been a loyal and long-serving deputy and former leader; he's been a great servant of the party for a long time," the leader said. "He has a lot of regard in the party room.
"Jeremy has clearly been a very, very strong performer for us in the last four years. He was one of our strongest frontbench performers, without a doubt. He had one of the strongest votes, along with Alistair."
Mr Seselja said selection of the new leader would be a democratic process and he was not going to "dictate from on high" who the new leader should be.
"This is a party room that I am unlikely to be part of for much longer," he said.
"And so as a result of that I need to acknowledge that the new team are going to have to be the ones that work together and make it work."