Challengers Line up for Victorian Liberal Leadership

Challengers Line up for Victorian Liberal Leadership
Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy speaks to media during a press conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sept. 21, 2022. (AAP Image/Diego Fedele)

Several potential challengers have emerged in the fight for the Victorian Liberal leadership, while the result may not be known for days or even weeks.

Warrandyte MP Ryan Smith will run, and former shadow attorney-general John Pesutto will also launch a bid if he beats teal independent Melissa Lowe to reclaim his seat in Hawthorn. He currently leads the count by about 500 votes.

Former police spokesman Brad Battin and Polwarth representative Richard Riordan are also said to be in the running.

There are reports upper house representative Matt Bach is mulling over a tilt but would need to move to the lower house to be eligible.

Former leader Michael O'Brien and opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier will not put themselves forward, according to The Age.

“All I can say at this point is that if I am successful, I intend to nominate for the leader,” Pesutto told ABC radio.

He wouldn’t reveal if he had the numbers in the party room to win a leadership ballot but acknowledged the Liberals needed to take “fairly dramatic steps” to rebuild the organisation in Victoria.

“The discussions I’ve had so far have been really positive, and everybody seems receptive to the concept of me being a potential leader.”

Mr Smith told the Herald Sun if successful, he would focus on regaining support in suburban electorates rather than marginal inner-city seats.

“That includes talking to some of the faith communities and not just being there on election day or three months before election day,” Mr Smith told the newspaper.

Outgoing leader Matthew Guy confirmed he would call the parliamentary party room together to elect a new leader once a clearer picture of successful candidates emerges following his second electoral defeat.

Liberal candidates remain locked in five close tussles in Bass, Hastings, Pakenham, Hawthorn and Mornington.

Guy resigned as opposition leader after the coalition’s “Danslide” thumping in 2018 before returning to the post in September 2021 by toppling Mr O'Brien.

Former Liberal MP Tim Smith said deputy leader David Southwick, Crozier, and shadow treasurer David Davis should not seek to remain part of the parliamentary leadership team.

As things stand, the coalition is projected to win at least 25 seats and may limp to or just past their starting figure of 27, largely courtesy of the Nationals picking up three regional seats.

Labor is on track to win more than 52 of the 88 seats in the lower house, despite a plunge in its primary vote and double-digit swings against it in Melbourne’s north and west.

Six seats remain too close to call, with Labor predicted to win or ahead in four of those.

Upper house results are likely to become known in a few days.

Parliament is set to sit before Christmas.