Victorian Liberals choose leader as MP says Labor shouldn't have 'run against our women'

 abc.net.au  12/5/2018 11:35:30 PM 

Updated December 06, 2018 11:08:01

Former treasurer Michael O'Brien has been elected Victoria's new Opposition Leader, replacing Matthew Guy after the Liberal Party's disastrous state election defeat.

Key points:

  • The Liberal party room has nominated former treasurer Michael O'Brien as leader
  • Outside Parliament, Liberal MPs criticised the party's disastrous election campaign
  • Cindy McLeish, one of seven female Liberal parliamentarians, was elected deputy leader

He was elected at a partyroom meeting this morning, after Mr Guy quit last week and the party's Victorian branch president, Michael Kroger, resigned on Friday night.

Cindy McLeish was elected deputy leader.

Mr O'Brien was an adviser to former federal treasurer Peter Costello and an industrial relations lawyer before being elected the MP for Malvern, in Melbourne's inner-east, in 2006.

The 47-year-old served as a minister in the Ted Baillieu-led Coalition Government, and was promoted to treasurer when Denis Napthine became Premier in 2013.

While counting continues following the November 24 vote, Labor is set to govern with a 56-seat majority in Victoria's 88-seat Lower House, up from 45 at the close of the last Parliament.

The Coalition looks to have won just 26 seats, losing a number of previously safe electorates, including Hawthorn, which had been held by potential leadership contender John Pesutto.

As the surviving Liberals entered Parliament today, many offered analysis of what went wrong during the campaign, but Mr Guy avoided questions about the election loss, saying it was a matter for the new leader.

Upper House MP Bernie Finn said the campaign was "disgraceful" because it failed to properly communicate with voters.

He also lashed out at criticism from Labor about the lack of women in Liberal ranks.

"If the Labor Party and the Greens want to have more women in the Liberal Party, what they should have done is not defeated them, that would have been a very good thing if they hadn't run against our women," Mr Finn said.

Upper House MP Mary Wooldridge — one of just seven female parliamentarians in the party — said it must stop a lurch to the right of politics.

"We will win government when we reflect the majority of Victorians' views and … we must have a range of moderate perspectives," Ms Wooldridge said.

'An opportunity for change'

Ms McLeish is one of just three Liberal women elected to the Parliament's Lower House.

She worked as a teacher and consultant before becoming the MP for Seymour in 2010 and Eildon in 2014, following the last state redistribution.

Ms Wooldridge urged greater efforts to recruit more women to the party and did not rule out supporting quotas.

"I think we need to reassess on a whole lot of policy fronts," she said.

"This sort of crisis presents an opportunity for change and a big shift back to the centre."

Conceding defeat to Labor's John Kennedy yesterday, Mr Pesutto also called on the party to recruit more women and culturally diverse candidates and to do more to address climate change.

He cited his 17-year-old daughter, who went to Melbourne's climate change protest on Friday, as an example of the kind of voter the party should be attracting.

"I'm concerned that there are conservative people, conservative-leaning people, and even moderate-leaning people who just want our party to do something on that front," he said.

Mr Pesutto did not rule out a comeback to politics when asked if it was possible there may be a resignation in the Upper House, which could allow him to return without a by-election.

Topics: government-and-politics, state-elections, state-parliament, liberals, melbourne-3000, vic, hawthorn-3122, malvern-3144

First posted December 06, 2018 10:35:30

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