First-term Member of Parliament Zak Kirkup is the favourite to claim the West Australian Liberal leadership this morning, with a promise to bring generational change to the party ahead of the March state election.
- 33-year-old Zak Kirkup is being touted as the likely candidate to replace Liza Harvey
- The former Barnett government adviser is in his first parliamentary term
- Supporters of rival Dean Nalder hope to sway undecided MPs ahead of the vote
The 33-year-old Shadow Health Minister is vying for the leadership following the resignation of Liza Harvey last weekend, less than four months out from the 2021 state poll.
“I think it is a prospect for a new generation of leadership for the party,” Mr Kirkup told reporters yesterday.
The youngest Liberal in the WA Parliament, Mr Kirkup insisted his relative inexperience should not count against him.
“I think anyone should judge a person by their actions and not by their age,” he said.
Mr Kirkup was an adviser to former Premier Colin Barnett before winning the seat of Dawesville at the 2017 election by just over 300 votes.
His opponent in the leadership ballot, Shadow Treasurer and former Barnett government minister Dean Nalder, said his experience in business and politics made him the standout candidate.
“I think it’s the experience and the credentials that I bring,” he told reporters yesterday.
“I’ve been a cabinet minister, I’ve worked in corporate life, I’ve been a small business owner, and I’ve done a lot on the sporting field,” he said.
Powerbrokers seen to back Kirkup
Mr Nalder was elected to Parliament in 2013 and promoted to Premier Colin Barnett’s cabinet within 12 months, as transport and finance minister.
He was soon flagged as a potential leader, but 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, until he abruptly quit in 2016 in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to remove Mr Barnett as Liberal leader.
Since the 2017 defeat of the Barnett government, Mr Nalder has served as Shadow Treasurer under both Liza Harvey and former Opposition Leader Mike Nahan.
Both Mr Nalder and Mr Kirkup said they were encouraged by feedback from colleagues when sounding them out for support over the past two days.
Mr Kirkup is seen as having the backing of key party powerbrokers, but Mr Nalder’s camp is hoping undecided MPs can be convinced to support him.
The outgoing leader, Ms Harvey, said she would not endorse either candidate.
“I haven’t got any predetermined outcome … my vote’s not been settled yet.”
Shadow Transport Minster and Vasse MP Libby Mettam is so far the only declared candidate to replace Bill Marmion as the Liberals’ deputy leader.
The leadership ballot will be held at a partyroom meeting at 10:00am.