Peter Dutton is heavily favoured to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader, and while some outspoken critics have already written him off, the no-nonsense Queenslander could become Anthony Albanese’ biggest nightmare.
While Dutton is from the party’s right and commentators are saying the Liberals must shift left to regain the political middle ground, he’s actually popular among many of the party’s moderates because of his pragmatism and record of electoral success.
While shell-shocked MPs are running away from the leadership, party sources say Dutton is energised and ready to lead.
The natural successor to Scott Morrison was treasurer Josh Frydenberg, but he was unexpectedly dumped from his Melbourne seat of Kooyong by Monique Ryan.
However, Mr Dutton was also considered a lock to replace Malcolm Turnbull when he was ousted as prime minister on August 24, 2018, only for Mr Morrison to emerge.
Peter Dutton is heavily favoured to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader, but could face stiff opposition from the party’s moderate wings
Shell-shocked heavyweights are jockeying to fill both the top spots after former deputy Josh Frydenberg was outed from his seat at the election
Mr Dutton has long had his critics, many basing their criticism for the most superficial reason – his looks.
His shaved head, heavy features and height combine to create what some consider an imposing and at times intimidating combination.
And the critics say he represents a brand of conservatism that turned off many voters in the former Liberal heartland of wealthy suburbs, with many female voters in particular instead turning to ‘teal’ independents.
WA Premier Mark McGowan issued an extraordinary putdown of Mr Dutton on Monday, saying he was too conservative, too extreme, too argumentative and simply not bright.
But others believe the Liberals best hope is to fully embrace conservatism in line with Mr Dutton’s vision, to create starker points of difference with Labor.
Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin was among those making that case, urging the party to forego the trendy rich voters indulging their climate change preoccupations, and go for the suburban battlers, the mortgage belt, the blue-collar workers, as a path back to government.
Mr Dutton’s remarkable hold on the perennial marginal seat of Dickson has shown his effectiveness as a campaigner and understanding the issues that count, and that record of success is among many reasons he is likely to be elected unopposed as the replacement for Mr Morrison.
Outgoing trade minister Dan Tehan, home affairs minister Karen Andrews, and finance minister Simon Birmingham had all been tipped as potential challengers to lead the party in a new direction but in reality they are likely only contenders for deputy.
The field for the deputy leader position is expected to be extremely competitive with up to half a dozen candidates.
Mr Morrison quit the Liberal Party leadership after losing the election and being ousted from his post as prime minister
In addition to Mr Tehan, Ms Andrews, and Mr Birmingham are Tasmanian MP Bridget Archer, outgoing social services minister Anne Ruston, superannuation minister Jane Hume, attorney-general Michaelia Cash, and environment minister Sussan Ley are all possibilities.
Outgoing foreign minister Marise Payne is rumoured to be considering retirement after serving in the Senate since 1997.
A special party meeting to select new leadership could be held this week, but with the Liberal licking their wounds and assessing what went wrong on Saturday, there is little reason to rush.
More likely it will be held in the days before the next sitting of Parliament, which is scheduled for June 6 but will change at new PM Anthony Albanese’s direction.
Outgoing defence minister Mr Dutton is the overwhelming favourite to claim the Liberal Party leadership at a vote next month.
He is the leader of the party in the House if Representatives and almost seized power at another vote in 2018.
His main competition was Josh Frydenberg, who was knocked over by a teal independent, along with other rising stars in the party.
An election night bloodbath toppled 10 moderate Liberal MPs, including some leadership contenders, greatly increasing Mr Dutton’s chances.
Mr Dutton’s election would lurch the Liberal to the right, back to its conservative base and abandon inner-city seats to independents and The Greens.
Outgoing defence minister Mr Dutton is the overwhelming favourite to claim the Liberal Party leadership at a vote next month
He has the support of all conservative MPs and the party’s right wing faction, including Senator Matt Canavan.
‘Usually when you get tossed out of government Queensland swings and it didn’t this time,’ he told Sky News.
‘I think that is in large part due to the strong, conservative leadership that Peter Dutton provides there and gives people hope to rally behind our brand.’
Alan Tudge, who hopes to return to the front bench after standing down during an investigation into interactions he had with a staffer, agreed.
‘I think he’ll be incredibly effective actually,’ he told Sky News.
‘He’s a person of immense character, experience, he has very deep values in the Liberal Party and I think we need to go back to those values.’
The outgoing finance minister is known to harbour leadership aspirations and is the top member of the moderate faction left after Mr Frydenberg’s demise.
Mr Birmingham, 47, has been in parliament since 2007 and is a veteran minister, and worked as a lobbyist before running for office.
His alternate plan to Mr Dutton’s is to move with the times and follow public sentiment on climate change to win back wealthy inner-city seats.
It would also mean forgoing ‘culture war’ issues like gay marriage by returning to the party’s roots in social liberalism.
Outgoing finance minister Simon Birmingham is known to harbour leadership aspirations and is the top member of the moderate faction left after Mr Frydenberg’s demise.
Mr Birmingham identified ‘the failure in relation to the national energy guarantee’, where the party’s right killed then-PM Mr Turnbull’s emission reduction plan, as a turning point that eventually led to the teal wave.
‘The what and the why are issues such as climate change,’ he told the ABC on Sunday.
‘We acknowledge the need for Australia to play a leading role in action around the world and that we get our language as well as our policies right in that space.’
Mr Birmingham said he was not sure who he would support for leader, and with 10 moderates losing their seats would likely not have the numbers to challenge Dutton.
The Liberal Party’s top ranked woman and outgoing home affairs minister has not ruled out running for leader and is likely to at least challenge for deputy.
Elected to the Queensland seat of McPherson in 2010, she quickly rose through the ranks to become home affairs minister last March, succeeding Mr Dutton.
Before that sjhe was science minister where she became a ‘key player’ in Australia’s early response to the Covid pandemic.
Ms Andrews voted for Mr Dutton in 2018, but switched her support to Mr Morrison in the second ballot.
She is friendly to moderate positions on climate change, urging the party in January 2020 to ‘move on’ from its scepticism on the issue.
The Liberal Party’s top ranked woman and outgoing home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, has not ruled out running for leader and is likely to at least challenge for deputy
‘Every second that we spend talking about whether or not the climate is changing is a second that we are not spending on looking at adaptation [and] mitigation strategies,’ she said.
‘It really is time for everyone to move on and look at what we’re going to do.’
Ms Andrews is an outside chance for leader and a strong contender for deputy as many in the party believe the second spot must be a woman, given the teal independents were all female.
After saying it was too early to think about leadership aspirations, she on Sunday told 4BC radio should consider ‘what role will allow me to add the most value’.
‘I’m going to consider my position over the next day or so,’ she said, confirming she would ‘certainly’ at least consider deputy leader.
Mr Tehan, 54, has never held a top level portfolio, serving as trade minister since December 2020, but is still considered an outside chance if he runs.
A member of the party’s centre-right faction, he opposes gay marriage and as education minister oversaw a policy hiking the fees for arts degrees.
He also supported Tony Abbott for leader when the prime minister was ousted by Mr Turnbull in 2015.
Dan Tehan, 54, has never held a top level portfolio, serving as trade minister since December 2020, but is still considered an outside chance if he runs
Mr Tehan said running for Liberal leader was ‘last thing on my mind’ but he didn’t rule it out.
‘What we’ve got to do is make sure we are looking after those who have lost their seats, make sure we are scrutinising every last vote that comes in,’ he told Sky News.
‘At this stage what we need to be doing is making sure we regroup and come together.’
Mr Taylor, 55, only entered parliament in 2013 but had a long career as a management consultant before politics.
He was instrumental in the creation of dairy giant Fonterra in New Zealand after he ‘spent four years working on a master plan: to unify the bitterly divided industry into a single national champion’.
This is regarded as ‘one of the most successful strategic decisions in agri-business history’ and is a case study at Harvard Business School.
To run for election in Hume he uprooted his family from Woollahra in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, to a farm outside of Goulburn.
Early in his political career he wrote memos arguing green energy technologies were too expensive and inefficient and promoted gas as a better carbon reduction option.
Angus Taylor, 55, (right) only entered parliament in 2013 but had a long career as a management consultant before politics. He is touted as an outside chance to take on Mr Dutton
However, he insisted he was not a climate change sceptic and said ‘I do not have a vendetta against renewables’.
Mr Taylor has been mentioned either as a possible outside challenger to Mr Dutton, or a contender for the deputy leadership, but has not commented on it.
However, he has a series of scandals under his belt, including an allegedly forged document that was investigated by state and federal police until it was dropped for lack of evidence in February 2020.
He was accused of using $80 million of taxpayers’ money to buy water licences from two Queensland properties owned by Eastern Australia Agriculture, of which he was a director until 2009, but was cleared by an investigation.
A Roy Morgan survey in March found Mr Taylor was Australia’s seventh least trusted politician, only better than Dominic Perrottet, Craig Kelly, Pauline Hanson, Barnaby Joyce, Mr Dutton, and Mr Morrison.
Ms Archer is the first Liberal MP to put her hand up for the deputy position, but first has to win her own seat, which is too close to call.
With 73.6 per cent of the vote counted, she is ahead by 1,232 votes in the Tasmania seat of Bass against Labor challenger Ross Hart.
The 47-year-old whose father died when she was eight is a member of the moderate faction and hopes to balance the ticket if Mr Dutton become leader.
Joining the leadership would be a departure from her history of rebellion against conservative policies like gay marriage and transgender rights.
Bridget Archer is the first Liberal MP to put her hand up for the deputy position, but first has to win her own seat, which is too close to call
She was one of four Liberals to cross the floor in February in support of an amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act to protect transgender students.
Earlier in November 2021 she crossed the floor in support of a federal anti-corruption body – a key policy of Mr Albanese.
She also opposed cashless welfare cards, which she called a ‘punitive measure’ that assumed all welfare recipients couldn’t handle their finances.
Ms Andrews said she would run for a leadership position to drag the Liberals back towards the centre.
The 47-year-old, whose father died when she was eight, is a member of the moderate faction and hopes to balance the ticket if Mr Dutton become leader
‘From my point of view, there are a lot of lessons to come out of this election… for the Liberal Party,’ she told local radio.
‘I think that the Liberal Party does need to find its way back to the centre, which is where Australia lies electorally, and that’s where the future success of the Liberal Party lies: a return to the centre.
‘So if I can play some part in achieving that move back to that more centrist politics, then I would seek to do so.’
Ms Archer has a solid chance at deputy as many in the party think it needs to be filled by a woman, but her status as a moderate and rebel will work against her with 10 moderates voted out of parliament.
Holding one of the top portfolios in the land, as attorney-general, until the government fell at the election, Senator Cash’s name often comes up.
Working in her favour for deputy is being part of the National Right faction and being female, but being in the Senate makes her candidacy unlikely.
Senator Cash also has the bagged of a scandal where her staffer tipped off the media about a Federal Police raid on the Australian Workers’ Union in 2017.
She and her office was investigated and made to hand over documents, and she was accused of directing or at least knowing about her staffer’s actions.
Holding one of the top portfolios in the land, as attorney-general, until the government fell at the election, Senator Cash’s name often comes up
Brittany Higgins worked for Ms Cash in the months after she claims she was raped on a couch in Parliament House by a fellow staffer.
She was dragged into the saga when it became public in early 2021 and questions raised about what she knew when.
Senator Cash never reported the alleged rape to Mr Morrison and claims she didn’t know the details of the allegations when she told Ms Higgins in the months that followed that the issues was ‘under control. I promise you’.
The WA senator has not commented on any speculation that she could seek a leadership role, but she is expected to play a large role in shadow cabinet.
Another senator whose name comes up as a possible deputy leader, she served as superannuation minister until Saturday’s election.
Senator Hume worked in banking until she quit to start a family in 2002, then later was a member of several boards before entering parliament in 2016.
She holds social liberal views and believes her party ‘owes it to our followers and to our most vulnerable to articulate a positive social justice agenda for the right’.
Most recently she was in the news for a public confrontation with Simon Holmes à Court, the millionaire puppet master financing the teal independents.
The pair were caught on camera embroiled in a fiery stoush on Thursday as Mr Frydenberg filmed it all on his mobile phone.
Ms Hume was canvassing for Mr Frydenberg when she was approached by Mr Holmes a Court, who was there to support candidate Monique Ryan.
‘Just leave me alone, Simon. Please leave me alone,’ said Ms Hume as Mr Holmes a Court stood in front of her.
Jane Hume (right) worked in banking until she quit to start a family in 2002, then later was a member of several boards before entering parliament in 2016
The feud escalated on election night when Mr Holmes a Court called Ms Hume a liar when asked if he had any regrets about the ‘nasty’ campaign.
‘Jane has for a long time spread lies and mistruths about me,’ he said. ‘I have asked her to withdraw and she won’t.
‘I asked her in a public forum and that probably wasn’t the place to do it, but I’m looking forward to that retraction of lies from Jane Hume.
‘Those who have seen the full video will know what really went on. As I said to Jane I have gave my apology that I think that wasn’t an appropriate place for it.’
A visibly irate Ms Hume said the answer sounded like a ‘a sorry, not sorry’.
‘If you see the full video you’ll see it was a set up. It was pretty disgraceful behaviour. I hope it takes some paint off your celebrations tonight.’
Mr Holmes a Court chimed in once again saying: ‘Looking forward to getting your full apology,’ he said.
‘Stick it up your jumper,’ Ms Hume snippily replied.
Most recently she was in the news for a public confrontation with Simon Holmes à Court, the millionaire puppet master financing the teal independents
Senator Hume on Sunday said there were ‘lingering issues’ about the party’s appeal to women and they had ‘a lot of work to do’ and ‘soul-searching’ was required.
‘Women who were professional, well educated, chose not to not to vote for us as they had done before,’ she said.
Senator Hume said she was ‘going to consider my position over the next day or so’ about the deputy leadership.
‘It’s a very tough time for my party at the moment. We need a strong and successful Liberal voice to really come forward,’ she said.
The environment minister is a member of the centre-right faction and holds several unconventional views within the party.
Ms Ley supports the State of Palestine and wants it admitted to the United Nations, and in 2018 introduced a failed private member’s to ban the live export of sheep.
She was health minister until she was forced to resign over an expenses scandal in 2017 that has dogged her career ever since.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley is a member of the centre-right faction and holds several unconventional views within the party
In January that year she bought a property on the Gold Coast during an official trip from her seat in NSW, but defended the trip as legitimate.
Ms Ley insisted buying the house was ‘was not planned nor anticipated’ but later admitted it changed the course of her trip.
It was later revealed she made 27 official trips to the Gold Coast as she resigned while an investigation ran its course.
Ms Ley has been mentioned as a contender for the deputy leadership but not commented on it.
What would a Dutton leadership look like?
Under a Dutton leadership team, the Liberal Party would likely move further to right right to distance itself from Labor and energise its conservative base.
Conservatives such as Senator Alex Antic and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, want this outcome as it would present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions.
Credlin described Scott Morrison’s government as a ‘Labor-lite government that gave in on ”net zero”, compromised budget responsibility and freedom during the pandemic, and refused to fight any culture wars.’
She claimed Mr Morrison shifted to the left, alienating conservative voters who turned to One Nation and the United Australia Party and did not preference the Coalition.
With former treasurer, and expected Morrison successor, Mr Frydenberg (pictured with his wife Aimee) now unemployed alongside other touted future leaders, Mr Dutton is widely expected to win
Instead of trying to win back inner-city seats from the Greens and independents, she argues they should be abandoned and the focus shifted to winning suburban and regional Labor electorates.
But leading moderates including Mr Birmingham and Mr Frydenberg believe the next election will be won from the centre and the party must embrace climate change action to win back city seats stolen by teal independents.
Veteran political commentator Barrie Cassidy agreed with this point of view, arguing Mr Dutton would be a bad choice for leader.
He said the Liberals’ parliamentary base was after the election even more dominated by the right at a time when female voters in particular have repudiated those policies at the ballot box.
‘They’re in a bind because they have a female problem. They have a problem with climate change, they have a problem with integrity,’ he told the ABC.
‘Who are you going to call? Peter Dutton to fix those issues when he’s ideologically opposed, not to women, but to the other issues. But if it’s not him. Who else?’
Peter Dutton is heavily favoured to replace Scott Morrison as Liberal leader, but could face stiff opposition from the party’s moderate wings
A Liberal insider also said the style of leadership needed to be ‘put to death’.
‘Morrisonism is economic populism and culture wars – that was poison for us in the city. We’ve got to return to economic rationalism and social liberalism,’ they told The Guardian.
‘Deves was emblematic of everything that is wrong with Morrison on these sorts of issues. [The leadership] made a huge mistake thinking that the party membership base is the voting base.
‘The voting base of the party is much broader, and they voted against this shit yesterday in Warringah.’
The fight for the soul of the Liberal Party is underway and it’s going to get VERY ugly, writes CHARLIE MOORE. How moderate and conservative forces are now in a DO-OR-DIE battle after wipeout of blue-ribbon seats
The fight for the Liberal Party of the future is underway – and it is going to get very ugly.
Just hours after a bruising election defeat and the shock loss of a swag of inner-city seats to so-called teal independents, there is already fierce internal debate about what went wrong and how to win back power.
Conservatives such as Senator Alex Antic and former chief of staff to Tony Abbott Peta Credlin want to the party to move to the right to present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions.
But leading moderates including Simon Birmingham and outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg believe the next election will be won from the centre and the party must embrace climate change action to win back city seats stolen by teal independents.
Former chief of staff to Tony Abbott Peta Credlin wants the Liberal party to move right to present a ‘strong alternative’ and appeal to the outer suburbs and regions
The next leader is most likely to be right-wing conservative Peter Dutton, whom moderates fear will push the party even further to the right – making it harder to win back the seats lost to the teal independents.
But Credlin summarised the argument in favour of a more conservative approach in her News Corp column on Saturday night.
After Anthony Albanese won power with a projected 77-seat majority and the Liberals only on 54 seats, she claimed the Coalition lost because it was not right-wing enough.
She described Scott Morrison’s government as a ‘Labor-lite government that gave in on ”net zero”, compromised budget responsibility and freedom during the pandemic, and refused to fight any culture wars.’
Credlin claimed Mr Morrison had shifted to the left, alienating conservative voters who turned to One Nation and the United Australia Party and did not preference the Coalition.
‘Instead of sticking with the Quiet Australians who’d supported him to his miracle win last time, Morrison’s shift to the left didn’t placate the Teals, but it sure alienated one-time Coalition supporters who moved in droves to splinter parties on the right whose preferences haven’t returned in anything like the numbers needed to hold government,’ she wrote.
Credlin argued the Coalition should forget the six seats in Melbourne and Sydney won by the climate-conscious teals and instead try to win suburban and regional Labor seats in 2025.
‘It should be pretty simple for the Coalition to see its future representing a new generation of Menzies’ ‘Forgotten People’ living outside the leafy inner-city suburbs that used to be the Liberals’ heartland, in places where people worry about earning a living, about what their kids are taught at school and hope they still live in country where hard work means getting ahead,’ she wrote.
Leading moderates including Simon Birmingham and outgoing Treasurer Josh Frydenberg (pictured together) believe the next election will be won from the centre
However, leading moderate Senator Birmingham disagreed and said the lesson is that the Coalition must do better on climate change and women’s rights.
He called for an increase to the Coalition’s 2030 emissions targets.
‘It is already clear that we disproportionately lost the votes of many women and professionals. Issues of equality, inclusion and respect played a role, along with policy on climate change,’ he wrote in a long Facebook post.
Senator Birmingham said it took too long for the Coalition to agree on net zero emissions by 2050 in the face of resistance from the National Party, the junior Coalition party.
‘It shouldn’t have taken such effort to bring the Coalition on that necessary journey. Sadly, the process of getting there cemented doubts in the minds of too many voters about the genuineness of the commitment,’ he wrote.
‘In too many seats, especially where we faced independent challenges, too many voters thought that we didn’t share their values or concerns.
‘All of this presents an opportunity for a swift Liberal comeback, if we react the right way.
‘If we listen to the messages from the electorate, embrace change where we need and ensure the selection of many, many more skilled women then we should approach the next election with optimism.’
Mr Frydenberg, who lost his seat to teal independent Monique Ryan, also said climate change was crucial, describing it as ‘a salient and most important issue, not just here in Kooyong but obviously for the country’.
He said: ‘Australia has not been well served by the culture wars on climate change.
‘Whether you believe in it or don’t believe in it, climate change is not a religion.
‘It needs to be dealt with from a perspective of engineering, economics and also environmental science.’
Former foreign minister and Liberal moderate Julie Bishop said the party must better reflect women.
‘Women did not see their concerns and interests reflected in a party led by Scott Morrison in coalition with Barnaby Joyce,’ she said on Channel 9.
‘We have not mentioned at this point the impact of Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins, they changed the narrative when they exposed an ugly side to the workplace in Canberra. That resonated with women.’