'He's an extremist': Liberal Party mulls 'dangerous' new leader

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When the dust settles from the weekend's federal election, the decimated Liberal Party will convene to choose a new leader.

Mr Morrison was quick to announce he would step aside, but as the man expected to take over, former defence minister Peter Dutton is proving a controversial heir apparent.

Labelled an "extremist" by the Western Australian premier on Monday, former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson described Mr Dutton as a "dangerous person" to Yahoo News Australia.

Peter Dutton is all but certain to take the reins. Source: AAP
Peter Dutton is all but certain to take the reins. Source: AAP

With moderate Liberal and former treasurer Josh Frydenberg now out of parliament, Mr Dutton became the undeniable frontrunner for the job.

Liberal senator James Paterson said Peter Dutton was the best choice to lead the party and there was a consensus forming around him as "the right choice for these times".

Returned Liberal MP Alan Tudge said he "will be" the party's new leader. "I think he’ll be incredibly effective actually," he told Sky News.

But Mr Dutton, who talked up the prospect of war with China throughout the election campaign and comes from the hard right of the party, has left some uneasy.

Dr Hewson, who led the party from 1990 to 1994, believes the Queensland MP will be a disaster for the party.

"To me Dutton would be a disaster," he told Yahoo News Australia on the eve of the election.

"To me he’s a very dangerous person ... I can't see any redeeming features for Dutton as a leader."

At a press conference on Monday, Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan did not hold back about what he thought of the incoming Liberal leader when asked by media.

"He's an extremist. I don't think he fits with modern Australia at all," the premier said.

"Peter Dutton was the principal one out there talking about war, and war footing, and conflict and so forth.

"He doesn’t seem to listen and he’s extremely conservative.

"I actually don't think he's that smart ... I’ve seen him present on things, I don’t really pick up that there is much there."

Mr Dutton previously challenged then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the leadership in 2018, losing in a snap vote. He tried again in a later spill, to ultimately lose out to Mr Morrison. You can read about Peter Dutton's personal backstory here.

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

Who will become Liberal deputy leader?

Tasmanian Liberal Bridget Archer could put her hand up as deputy leader, to keep the party from moving further to the right with Mr Dutton at the helm.

Ms Archer, first elected in 2019 and expected to retain her ultra marginal seat of Bass, said she backed traditional "Liberal values".

"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.

Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer could make a surprise ascendency to the deputy leadership. Source: AAP
Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer could make a surprise ascendency to the deputy leadership. Source: AAP

Former Communications Minister Paul Fletcher would not be drawn on who he would support as the next leader of the Liberal party, or his own aspirations, AAP reported.

Speaking to Brisbane radio on Monday, former Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said she was considering her aspiration.

"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."

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

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

with AAP

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