Peter Dutton is the new Opposition Leader in all but name as other major candidates all pull out: ‘He will be the only nominee’
- Elevation of Mr Dutton comes as Labor premier dismisses him as ‘not smart’
- All of the other major candidates have pulled out after federal election loss
- Sussan Ley is said to be ‘strongest contender’ for the deputy leader position
Peter Dutton is all but assured to be the new leader of the Liberal Party as all the other major candidates pull out.
Karen Andrews has ruled herself out of contention to be Mr Dutton’s deputy in the Liberal opposition.
She said the former defence minister will be the only nominee and will become the Opposition Leader unopposed.
The likely elevation of Mr Dutton comes as a Labor state premier dismissed him as ‘not that smart’.
Ms Andrews added that Sussan Ley is ‘the strongest contender’ for the deputy leader position.
Peter Dutton (pictured with his wife Kirilly) is set to become the next leader of the Liberal Party
Four senior Liberals had been touted as potential rivals to Mr Dutton, but all have stepped aside.
They were outgoing trade minister Dan Tehan, former energy minister Angus Taylor, former home affairs minister Ms Andrews and outgoing communications minister Paul Fletcher – have been mentioned as possible rivals to Mr Dutton.
There is still a possibility that someone from the moderate wing of the Liberals will challenge Mr Dutton, but it would amount to little more than a token gesture as the conservative side has the numbers.
Liberal moderates took the brunt of the party’s losses in the federal election, losing seats in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to teal independents, the Greens and Labor.
The Labor state Premiers of Victoria both launched pre-emptive strikes on Mr Dutton in expectation of him becoming the new Liberal Party leader.
‘I’m trying to be as polite as possible,’ Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews said on Tuesday.
‘He hasn’t become the leader yet. If he does, then I wish him well, but he’s made a whole range of comments about Victoria.
‘You guys need to remember this. It wasn’t that long ago when these people were running around saying we’re all going to get murdered by an African gang and we couldn’t go out for dinner.’
Former Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews (pictured) said Peter Dutton will be the only nominee and become the Opposition Leader unopposed
On Monday, WA Premier Mark McGowan blasted Mr Dutton as not being fit to be prime minister.
‘He’s an extremist, and I don’t think he fits with modern Australia at all,’ said Mr McGowan.
‘He doesn’t seem to listen, he’s extremely conservative and I actually don’t think he’s that smart.
‘I’ve seen him present on things [and] I don’t really pick up there’s much there.
‘As opposed to Scott Morrison, who is a clever guy, I don’t pick up that Peter Dutton is fit to be prime minister.’
Former Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley (pictured) is likely to be the next deputy leader of the Liberal Party
While MPs shell-shocked from the election loss are running away from the leadership, party sources said Mr Dutton was energised and ready to lead.
But Mr Dutton was also considered almost certain to replace Malcolm Turnbull when he was ousted as prime minister on August 24, 2018, only for Mr Morrison to emerge.
The natural successor to Mr Morrison was was thought to be Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, but he was unexpectedly dumped from his Melbourne seat of Kooyong by teal independent Monique Ryan.
While some within the Liberals believe the party needs to move to the centre to have a chance at winning back the inner city seats it lost this time, others believe its Liberals best hope is to fully embrace conservatism in line with Mr Dutton’s vision.
Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin was among those making that case, urging the party to forego the rich voters who want more action on climate change.
Creating starker points of difference with Labor, this plan would see the Liberals target suburban battlers, the mortgage belt and blue-collar workers as a path back to government.