Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has thrown his support behind incumbent senator Gary Humphries in the emerging fight for the ACT Liberal senate preselection.
In response to questions from The Canberra Times, Mr Abbott said:
"As a former Chief Minister, Gary has been an outstanding advocate for the ACT and contributor to my Shadow Ministry. He has my support."
Senator Humphries is staking his political future on convincing enough members of his own party that he is the best person to protect Canberra from Tony Abbott's plans for it.
Earlier Monday afternoon, responding to Zed Seselja's move to oust him from the top spot on the ACT Liberals senate ticket for this year's federal election, Senator Humphries said he would be "fighting vigorously" to win the preselection contest.
Experience and the willingness to stand up to the federal leadership, he said, were his best assets and what the ACT needs the most right now.
"There is a particular challenge facing the people of Canberra in the next three years, particularly if there is a change of government," Senator Humphries said.
"Canberra is going to be facing very heavy pressures. We know that this city will be the subject of some very tough decisions by an incoming government, as it has been of the present government over the past few years.
"Canberra will need a champion – a person prepared to go into the offices of ministers in that government and act as its advocate and say 'I am here to stand up for the people of my city'.
"I want to make sure this city is looked after even when hard decisions have to be made about reining in federal expenditure."
Senator Humphries said while he was in support of the next federal government doing what it needs to do in order to bring the budget back into surplus, it should not be done at Canberra's expense.
He said he had the federal and territory political experience to make sure Mr Abbott heard Canberra's case, and that he would bash on the doors of his federal colleagues to stand up for the ACT.
"I don't think there's any secret that we've made it clear we're going to reduce the size of the public service," Senator Humphries said.
"It's very clear we're going to reduce the size of the public service. It's very clear that there will be some decisions made in the process that will be difficult for Canberra.
"But there's a balance to be struck here and I'll be making it clear to my colleagues, as I've made all throughout my career in the federal parliament, there's got to be respect for the institution of the public service, respect for the people of Canberra, and to acknowledge that this city has to fare well into the future and nothing should be done which adversely affects the interest of this city."
Senator Humphries said Mr Abbott had made it clear during his press club address last week that all of his current front bench should expect to keep their responsibilities in government.
As a shadow parliamentary secretary, Senator Humphries is a member of Mr Abbott's frontbench.
He is the first ACT Liberal to be a member of a Coalition front bench in the Federal Parliament.
He said as a member of an Abbott ministry in government, it would be easier for him to make Canberra's position known.
"I think I've got a very powerful case to put to ACT Liberal preselectors that I have the merit they need at the moment," he said.
"I've got the experience that will count for this city and for the Liberal Party itself in the Senate in the next three years.
"It's not a question of whose turn it is. It's not a question of who's got the right to say 'well you've had enough of a go I want my go'. It's a question of who's got the wherewithal to protect this city's interests in the next three years.
"I believe I can demonstrate that I have that capacity."
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