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Neil Mitchell assesses the leading candidates in the race for Liberal leadership

Neil Mitchell believes shadow Attorney-General John Pesutto is a narrow front-runner to take over as Opposition Leader — if he wins his seat.


  • Michael O’Brien
  • John Pesutto
  • Brad Battin
  • Ryan Smith
  • Tim Smith (The member for Kew told 3AW Mornings off-air that he would not run, but would not go on-air to say so)

Pesutto is in a tight race to keep his Hawthorn seat from Labor.

His chances of winning are evenly poised; he holds a lead of less than 300 votes with absentee votes likely to favour ALP candidate John Kennedy.

Ironically, Neil Mitchell believes Pesutto’s TV performance on election night when it appeared he would lose his job may be the moment that tips a leadership race in his favour.

The 48-year-old was widely praised by all sides of politics for his graciousness, and Liberal reformists were impressed with his vision for the party.

Click PLAY to hear Neil Mitchell’s comments, followed by Mr Pesutto’s TV comments

“(Shadow Treasurer) Michael O’Brien is capable of a similar direct and open approach,” Neil Mitchell said.

“I think they’re both very good operators.

“I think John Pesutto is probably the fresher face; he hasn’t got the experience that Michael O’Brien’s got, but he’s a fresher face and I think it’s time for a reinventing of the Liberal Party in Victoria.

“But I don’t know the ins and outs of this, that’s just my instinct – that John Pesutto would be an opportunity for renewal.

“Michael O’Brien would present similar opportunities but he has been around for a little but longer in the public consciousness.”

Under-siege Liberal Party president Michael Kroger was not available form

We’ve called Michael Kroger, who was driving his car, which somehow renders him incapable of discussing it. He won’t talk to us.