Liberal leadership contenders yet to show their hands after poll

Matthew Guy says he won't stand again for leadership of the Victorian Liberals.

Matthew Guy says he won't stand again for leadership of the Victorian Liberals. Photo: AAP

Contenders for the Victorian Liberal leadership are yet to publicly throw their hat in the ring after Matthew Guy flagged he would bow out following a second crushing election loss.

In the aftermath of Saturday’s resounding defeat, Mr Guy issued a statement confirming he would not continue as party leader.

“As soon as it is clearer which Liberal Party candidates will form the next parliamentary party room, I will call them together to elect their new leadership team,” he wrote on Sunday morning.

“I will not be a candidate for the position of leader.”

O’Brien weighing up possible return

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

Mr O’Brien, who was dumped after struggling to land a blow on Labor over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, is reportedly weighing up an attempted return.

Other potential contenders include frontbenchers Brad Battin, Ryan Smith, Richard Riordan and Matt Bach, who would need to move from the upper house if successful as per internal party rules that leaders sit in the lower house.

Mr Battin, who made an unsuccessful tilt at the leadership last year before Mr Guy seized control, has ambitions but said it wasn’t the right time to start discussing the subject.

“We still haven’t got other results in,” he told ABC Radio.

“I just don’t think it would be the right thing, or respectful thing to do on the Sunday (to) start going out there are talking up other aspirations.”

Smith calls on old leadership team to go

Former Liberal MP Tim Smith said deputy leader David Southwick, opposition health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier and shadow treasurer David Davis should not recontest leadership positions.

“The entire parliamentary leadership team should follow him (Mr Guy) out the door too,” he tweeted.

He said former Liberal MP John Pesutto could be another possible contender, despite being locked in a neck-and-neck battle with teal independent Melissa Lowe to reclaim his seat of Hawthorn.

Mr Pesutto told AAP last month his intention was to play a leadership role within the party, if elected.

Nationals MP floats break-up of Coalition

Mr Smith believes the election loss is likely a two-term result for the Liberals, consigning the party to eight years in the wilderness.

“I can’t see us miraculously finding a leader that cuts through in 2026,” Mr Smith said on Sky News.

Nationals MP Danny O’Brien said breaking up the state Coalition should be looked at, with the junior partner set to pick up at least three seats.

“It’s got to be on the table,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“We need to think about what the best is, not just for us but for the Liberal Party, and obviously they’re going to go through a fair bit of soul-searching in coming days, and weeks and months.”

It took Mr Guy two hours to concede the election after the outcome was called for Labor, with Mr Andrews awaiting his call before declaring victory.

“I’ve never had to make one of those calls. It’s obviously difficult. I was grateful that he rang,” the premier told reporters.


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