Former leader Matthew Guy returns to frontbench role in Victorian opposition reshuffle

Former leader Matthew Guy returns to frontbench role in Victorian opposition reshuffle

December 6, 2020

Victorian Liberal leader Michael O'Brien has elevated his predecessor Matthew Guy to a senior frontbench position as the opposition leader contends with internal frustration over the direction of the party.

Mr Guy has been a backbencher since he was defeated by Premier Daniel Andrews at the 2018 election. Liberal Party sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity as they are not allowed to publicly discuss internal matters, said he would take on an economic-focused portfolio, meaning Mr Guy will have a mandate to fight the Andrews government over its economic management as the state takes on record levels of debt.

Then Victorian Liberal leader Matthew Guy with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in 2018.Credit:Simon Schluter

The elevation of Mr Guy, 46, comes as Mr O'Brien attempts to revive the fortunes of the state opposition which has lagged in public polling during the pandemic and been troubled by internal squabbling.

A broader reshuffle of the shadow cabinet will also be announced by Mr O'Brien shortly.

The Age reported last week the opposition leader has faced public and internal criticism for the Liberals' political strategy during the pandemic and and there is intense speculation he could face a leadership challenge next year, according to 12 Liberals including shadow ministers, former MPs and party officials.

The party figures, some of whom are from Mr O'Brien's faction within the party, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss party affairs.

Public polling reported by The Age last month showed Labor in a dominating electoral position and Mr O'Brien with a 15 per cent approval rating despite Labor's hotel quarantine failure and the government losing several ministers this year.

Mr O'Brien's approval rating is similar to other state opposition leaders who have struggled to shift attention from state premiers during the COVID-19 crisis. Opposition leaders have also historically struggled to make inroads until closer to the time of an election when voters are more focused on an alternative government.

The Liberals will hold a party room meeting on Tuesday when parliament sits, but it will be held virtually. Later in the week, MPs will meet in person for a strategy session to discuss the party's tactics and priorities for 2021.

Senior opposition members believe the fortunes of the Liberals will rest on whether it can shift public perceptions on Labor's handling of the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

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