Hanson moves with the times, but needs to show lighter side
Jeremy Hanson is the new leader of the Canberra Liberals. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
Four-and-a-bit years in politics sure can change a bloke's tune.
When Jeremy Hanson first climbed to his feet in the Legislative Assembly in November 2008, he was saying things like this: "I support a woman's right to choose and I am encouraged to serve in an Assembly where nearly 50 per cent of its members are women. I believe in advancing the rights of the gay and lesbian community.''
But on Monday, in the immediate aftermath of his heady leadership win, it was a bit different with Hanson railing against the lefty outfit that was the "most extreme government in Australia". Hanson said the people wanted a government "that doesn't want their plastic bags banned while they're building public art, that wants people focusing on emergency departments, not needle and syringe programs in the jail. They want good commonsense values and that's what the Liberal Party stands for."
The contrasting approach is evidence that Hanson had moved with the times in the Canberra Liberals, although on Monday he insisted the local party hadn't moved to the right. It's probably best for him to say that because his win is a victory for the party's moderates and he does not want to be rubbing it in.
Of the six Liberal MLAs he served with in his first term, Hanson is the only one who is not a regular churchgoer and the only one whose politics are not influenced by faith to some degree. Hanson's victory must have been all the sweeter after his chances looking pretty ropey on Sunday night with party insiders convinced Alistair Coe - the de facto leader of Canberra's hardline Young Liberals movement - and Zed Seselja had stitched up a deal that would have handed the leadership to the younger man. Hanson, 45, is a married father of two who lives with his family in Weston Creek. In a 22-year army career, he served in East Timor, Iraq and Papua New Guinea, reaching the rank of lieutenant-colonel and earning a Distinguished Conduct Medal in the process.
We know he's a fighter: it's his combative performance hounding government ministers for health and prisons that have gone a long way to getting him noticed and widely acknowledged as the logical step in the leadership.
But now it must be time for Hanson to show a more conciliatory face to the electorate.