Without regrets, Alistair Coe, former member for Yerrabi and ex-Canberra Liberals leader, today resigned from the ACT Legislative Assembly after 12 years.
Mr Coe entered politics in 2008, at the age of 24, representing Ginninderra (2008 to 2016) and then Yerrabi. Mr Coe said it was an honour to have been elected four times, but that it was “time for a change”.
He announced his resignation in late January, after stepping down as leader of the Canberra Liberals after October’s election, in which the party suffered their sixth consecutive defeat, lost two seats, and experienced a 2.9% swing against them. Mr Coe’s electorate of Yerrabi, however, had a 4.9% swing towards the Liberals and a 10.5% swing against Labor.
“I thought perhaps there would be some regret or second thoughts, but in actual fact, as time has gone on since I made that announcement, I really have been reaffirmed that it’s the right thing to do.”
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Mr Coe said his departure would be “an opportunity for renewal for the Canberra Liberals”; already successor Elizabeth Lee and deputy leader Giulia Jones were doing “a wonderful job” of leading the party. He was confident Ms Lee would make the case for a new government in the ACT.
In his farewell press event, he was reflective and considered – truer to himself, perhaps, than the showboating, Boris Johnsonian technique he had adopted during the election campaign.
“Opposition’s tough,” Mr Coe said. “It’s like being in the cockpit of a plane; you can see the controls, but you can’t touch them. So you have that frustration that you’re so close, but an inch is a mile.
“When you go into politics, you go in with ambition, aspiration, and a real desire to make changes. In opposition, you can do some things; it’s still a very important role. But government is where it’s at; that’s why all members of the Assembly fight so hard to either win government or retain government.”
He said he would look back fondly at the changes to the bus network as a result of the Liberals’ 2016 election; the Liberals’ advocation of an ACT integrity commission ahead of the government; and his role in exposing land deals. As a local member, he would miss helping constituents.
Mr Coe said he was not sure what he would do next; he will spend more time with his family. The last 12 years have been a sacrifice for them, he said, and they were not able to spend much time together during the election.
He did not plan to return to politics. “I’m certainly keen to keep supporting the Liberal party that I love, whether that’s simply as a party member, as I have been for the last 20 years, or in any other capacity …
“Politics is in my blood. I love this city; I love our country. I want to do everything I can to contribute to its continued success.”
The Canberra Liberals would miss Mr Coe, Elizabeth Lee said. He had been a formidable local member, leader, and prosecutor of issues important to Canberrans, and also a valued colleague and friend.
Mr Coe’s resignation creates a ‘casual vacancy’, an empty seat in the Assembly outside the election period. The Assembly will fill the position through counting back the votes. Mr Coe’s seat could be filled by one of three unelected Yerrabi Liberal candidates: former MLA James Mulligan (7.2% of the vote), Jacob Vadakkedathu (5.0%), or Dr Krishna Nadimpalli (3.6%).
There may also be a reshuffle in the Canberra Liberals. Mr Coe had been Shadow Treasurer, and Shadow Minister for Planning and Land Management, and for Sustainable Building and Construction. “There’s a lot of talent around the room, and I’ll take my time in determining and discussing with my colleagues what the shape of the party will be in the future,” Ms Lee said.
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