WA Liberal MPs will gather on Tuesday to make a decision that could determine how many of them keep their jobs in the March 13 election.
- First-term MP Zak Kirkup is seen as the frontrunner in the leadership race
- Some colleagues are expecting him to comfortably win the vote.
- Shadow Treasurer Dean Nalder also has strong supporters within the Liberal Party
With polling day just around the corner, the party faces a big call on who is the best person to rescue their electoral prospects.
Liza Harvey announced on Sunday she would step down as Opposition Leader after almost 18 months at the helm.
Shadow Treasurer Dean Nalder and first-term MP Zak Kirkup have both confirmed they want to be the third Liberal leader of this term in parliament and fourth in less than four years.
Mr Kirkup is viewed as the frontrunner in the race and some colleagues are expecting him to comfortably win the vote.
But Mr Nalder does have strong supporters within the party, with furious lobbying for votes taking place behind the scenes.
So who are the two men who want to position themselves as WA’s alternative premier?
A former banking executive who grew up on a farm and also played in a WAFL Grand Final for South Fremantle, Mr Nalder entered parliament in 2013 as the Member for Alfred Cove (now Bateman).
From there, his rise was meteoric.
Within 12 months of entering parliament he was in cabinet, as Transport and Finance Minister — and it did not take long until colleagues were talking up his prospects of taking over the premiership from Colin Barnett.
But he was stripped of the finance portfolio in late 2014, amid a conflict of interest scandal over his ties to two companies.
Mr Nalder remained as Transport Minister though, until he abruptly quit in 2016 in an attempt to remove Mr Barnett as Liberal leader.
That came to a partyroom vote a few days later, with Mr Barnett winning 31 votes to 15 and Mr Nalder staying on the backbench until the election.
Mr Nalder was tipped as a contender for the leadership after the party’s heavy 2017 election loss but chose, along with other leading contenders, to stay out of the race — allowing Mike Nahan to take the job unopposed.
He also did not contest the job when Dr Nahan resigned, leaving the path open for Liza Harvey, but confirmed on Sunday that he would run this time.
“I’ll set down a clear and robust alternative to Labor and give voters across the state the chance to back a positive future for Western Australia.”
In his position of Shadow Treasurer, Mr Nalder has advocated for tax reform, such as cutting or abolishing stamp duty and replacing it with a broad-based land tax.
He has also been a proponent of asset privatisation, potentially putting the sale of Western Power back on the table for the Liberals if he wins the top job.
Mr Nalder comes from political pedigree — his grandfather was a long-serving deputy premier while his father also served in parliament.
Mr Kirkup entered state politics less than four years ago, winning the seat of Dawesville by just 343 votes.
But the 33-year-old, who grew up in Midland, had harboured political ambition long before claiming a spot in the Legislative Assembly.
As a child, he handed a business card to then Prime Minister John Howard describing himself as “future PM”.
Not long after that, he was recruited to join the Liberal Party.
More recently, he served as an advisor to Mr Barnett during the last Liberal government and also spent time working for construction firm BGC.
He is the youngest Liberal in parliament, but rose up quickly from a fringe role after the 2017 state election to be appointed shadow health minister in 2019.
Mr Kirkup, who has been regarded as one of the party’s best parliamentary performers, comes from the moderate wing of the party and voted for Voluntary Assisted Dying during last year’s debate.
“I think it is vitally important that we have a unified team to go to the next election and make sure that the people of Western Australia have a real choice,” Mr Kirkup said in a statement confirming his intention to run for the leadership.
But he faces a fight for his political future, regardless of the outcome in this week’s partyroom meeting.
Dawesville is the most marginal Liberal seat, held by just 0.7 per cent, and polling has suggested it could be in serious risk of falling into Labor’s hands.
Nobody has declared their hand and colleagues are expecting it to be a two-horse race.
Cottesloe MP David Honey has confirmed he will not nominate but Chruchlands MP Sean L’Estrange, who has previously been cited as a possible leadership aspirant, has not declared his hand.
Transport spokeswoman Libby Mettam is firming for the deputy leadership and could take the position unopposed, with others who loomed as potential nominees — like Alyssa Hayden and Tony Krsticevic — ruling themselves out.