Victorian Liberal powerbrokers have been running the numbers as Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien attempts to fend off an imminent leadership challenge.
Brad Battin – opposition spokesman for road safety, crime prevention, victims support and youth justice – is expected to make a tilt for the top job during a Liberal partyroom meeting before parliament sits on Tuesday morning.
The party’s 31 state MPs will first need to vote to bring on a spill motion and declare the leadership vacant. They will then vote on who they prefer as leader.
The move follows months of speculation about the performance of Mr O’Brien as opposition leader.
He has faced criticism for failing to land any blows on Premier Daniel Andrews and his government amid the coronavirus pandemic, particularly on the bungled hotel quarantine program that led to the state’s second wave.
Ahead of a reported crisis meeting of Victorian Liberal figures, Mr O’Brien was “confident” he would still be opposition leader on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think the spill motion will get up,” he told reporters on Monday.
An Ipsos poll commissioned by Nine News and The Age, published in October, showed only 15 per cent of the 858 Victorians surveyed approved of Mr O’Brien’s performance during the pandemic.
The premier’s approval rating was at 52 per cent and has since grown.
Liberal MPs told AAP Tuesday’s spill has been “triggered” in part by the election in Western Australia at the weekend, which reduced the Liberal Party to as few as two seats in the lower house.
But a number of MPs have privately expressed doubt Mr Battin, a 45-year-old father of two and MP for the southeast Melbourne seat of Gembrook, will secure enough support to win the ballot.
Senior Liberals Edward O’Donohue, Louise Staley and David Davis say they won’t support the spill motion, while Mr Guy is said to have ruled himself out of contention.