04/08/2008 - 15:39

Liberals leaderless after Buswell quits

04/08/2008 - 15:39

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The leadership of the WA Liberal Party is unclear following the surprise resignation of Troy Buswell earlier today and the silence from former leader Colin Barnett, who is considered the likely successor.

The leadership of the WA Liberal Party is unclear following the surprise resignation of Troy Buswell earlier today and the silence from former leader Colin Barnett, who is considered the likely successor.

Following mounting speculation this morning, Mr Buswell announced at midday that he will step aside to give the Liberal Party a better chance of winning the next election.

"I've made the decision today to resign as leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party because I believe it's in the best interests of the Western Australian Liberal Party," he said.

"There is a massive political opportunity at the next state election and I think I owe it to our candidates, to my fellow members of cabinet and to the Liberal Party, to make sure we have every opportunity to win government at that election."

Mr Buswell added that former Liberal leader Colin Barnett, who is widely tipped to take the leadership, had played no part in his decision to resign, even though they had spoken last week.

A spokesperson for Mr Barnett said he would not be making any comments to the media today.

Mr Barnett has previously announced he intended quitting his seat of Cottesloe at the next election, but has since said he is open to approaches by the party to remain in parliament and take up the leadership.

Mr Buswell's replacement is expected to be decided at a party room meeting on Wednesday.

Liberal Party state president Barry Court has thanked Mr Buswell and said the party respects his decision.

Mr Court said he worked hard as leader in difficult circumstances and has put the Liberal Party in a strong position to contest the state election.

Meanwhile the political aspirations of former Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA policy director Deidre Willmott have been thrown a curve ball.

Ms Willmott has already been endorsed as the Liberal candidate for Mr Barnett's seat of Cottesloe, on the expectation Mr Barnett will retire.

However if Mr Barnett does take the leadership, the party will need to change its preselection plans for the seat.

Ms Willmott was reported on ABC Radio as saying that she is prepared to make way for Mr Barnet if the party found her another seat.

Mr Buswell has been the subject of increasing pressure to stand down since he admitted sniffing a female staffer's chair.

Mr Buswell, who took over as leader from Paul Omodei in January, denied at the conference that his decision was based on the polling or any request for him to stand down.

While the next poll could be held as late as May 2 next year, anticipation is mounting that Premier Alan Carpenter will call an election within months.

Mr Buswell won the party leadership amid admissions that he had snapped the bra of a Labor staffer at Parliament House and had made sexist remarks to Liberal MP Katie Hodson-Thomas.

Following the chair-sniffing scandal, he survived two leadership spills before today's announcement that he would step down.

Mr Buswell said he would serve in any capacity he was asked to and hoped to help play a major role in a Liberal win in the next state election.

"Most observers of politics would know that my six months as parliamentary leader has not been without its challenges," he admitted.

"However, during that time I feel that we've done a good job in holding the government to account when they've made mistakes.

"I'm confident that I've made the right decision, I'm confident I've made an honourable decision.

"I do not want to give the government the opportunity to take the focus off of its failings by engaging in cheap personality-based politics.

"I give an assurance today that whoever replaces me as leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party will have my 100 per cent support both on the record and off the record."

Mr Buswell was the fourth opposition leader since the last election.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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