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Liberal direction dilemma amid search for leader

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Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer could put her hand up as deputy leader to keep the party from moving further to the right amid speculation Peter Dutton will run for the leadership.

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Archer, who appears to have retained her ultra marginal seat of Bass at the federal election, said she backed traditional “Liberal values”.

Asked on Monday if she would consider running for the deputy leader spot, Archer said “I feel like that would be fairly presumptuous”.

Asked again, given the risk that the party could move further to the right, she said “potentially”.

“I’ve seen some early commentary around some idea that the party should move further to the right and I will certainly resist all efforts for that to occur,” she told ABC radio on Monday.

“We need to bring the party back to the centre.”

But her colleague, Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz,says a move to the left is what cost the Liberals the federal election.

“It was the so-called, self-styled ‘modern Liberals’ that the electorate dealt with relatively harshly,” he said.

“There’s no doubt that Peter Dutton has the strength and leadership skills to be a very effective opposition leader … I know what the media will say, he’s unelectable etc.”

In relation to the deputy leader position, Abetz said it was too early for Archer to be considered.

Dutton is widely expected to become the opposition leader although other names have been floated, including ex-home affairs minister and Queenslander Karen Andrews and former trade minister and Victorian Dan Tehan.

Former environment minister Sussan Ley has been floated as a potential deputy leader.

Andrews said she was considering which role in the party she could best contribute to before the Liberals meet to decide on the leadership.

“I’m going to consider my position over the next day or so … I want to really consider which role I feel I am best able to add the most value,” she said.

Liberal senator James Paterson said Peter Dutton was the right choice to lead the party.

“Any member of the party room is eligible to put their name forward … but my sense is there is a consensus forming that Peter Dutton is the right choice for these times,” he said.

Queensland MP Stuart Robert rejected suggestions Dutton, the former defence minister, could take the Liberal party further to the right.

“The key thing for the Liberal-Nationals parties is to represent aspiration,” he said.

“We have always been a sensible centre-right party and that is where we should stay.

On Sunday, senior Liberal frontbencher Simon Birmingham said the party will need to embrace a more ambitious climate target and preselect more women in its efforts to rebuild from its losses.

“Everything is on the table … to ensure that we can properly represent every single part of Australia,” he said.

Ex-prime minister Scott Morrison will formally step down from the Liberal leadership when the top job is spilled at the next party room meeting.

The latest official figures have the coalition holding 58 lower house seats in the new parliament.

-AAP

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