'Youth shouldn't count him out': Kirkup early favourite for WA Liberals leadership

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup is one of two confirmed candidates for the leadership of the WA Liberals.
Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup is one of two confirmed candidates for the leadership of the WA Liberals.

First-term MP Zak Kirkup could lead the West Australian Liberals to the polls in March as they seek to avoid electoral obliteration.

Mr Kirkup, 33, is one of two confirmed candidates for the leadership to be decided at a partyroom meeting on Tuesday, following the resignation of Liza Harvey.

He will face off against former cabinet minister Dean Nalder, the party's treasury spokesman and a well-connected figure in WA business circles.

Ms Harvey stepped down as opposition leader on Sunday, less than four months from election day, saying she wanted to give "clear air" to the party's candidates.

It comes after months of disastrous polling for the Liberals, who have already been reduced to just 13 of 59 seats in the lower house.

Mr Kirkup, the opposition's health spokesman, has been one of the party's better performers and is considered the early favourite in the leadership race.

An enormous task would await him.

Premier Mark McGowan's approval ratings have reached record highs in recent months, with his hard border closures and isolationist rhetoric proving extremely popular with voters.

His Labor government is widely expected to win a second term and is targeting further marginal Liberal seats after a landslide victory in 2017.

And no Liberal seat is tighter than Mr Kirkup's own seat of Dawesville, south of Perth, which he holds by a margin of just 0.7 per cent.

Liberal MP Steve Thomas declined to reveal how he would vote, but said the party needed to provide a vision for the future and Mr Kirkup's youth shouldn't count him out.

"I think we've seen leadership around the world that suggests you can start young," he told ABC radio.

"But he will have to convince his colleagues in particular that he comes with that experience enough to be able to do the job."

Mr Thomas conceded voters had stopped listening to Ms Harvey, noting party discontent about her mixed messaging on border closures.

"It's been too long now where we've been disjointed and it's time to put all that aside for the good of the Liberal party for the next three months," he said.

Kalgoorlie MP Kyran O'Donnell confirmed he would vote for Mr Nalder, warning that Mr Kirkup's battle to save his seat would disadvantage him.

Ms Harvey on Sunday said it had been "extremely difficult" for the Liberals' message to resonate during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she intended to remain in parliament and hoped to be a "senior member in a future Liberal government".

The premier said the Liberals were unstable, inexperienced and not ready to govern.

Australian Associated Press

This story 'Youth shouldn't count him out': Kirkup early favourite for WA Liberals leadership first appeared on Mandurah Mail.