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Prominent Liberal MP Bridget Archer has vowed to stare down her internal party critics and stand again for the marginal Tasmanian seat of Bass, despite pre-selection for the seat being delayed in a bid to force her out.
Archer’s colleague Gavin Pearce, who holds the neighbouring seat of Braddon, has withheld re-nomination for his seat in a move designed to get Liberal Party officials to force Archer out and stop her running in Bass again.
Tasmanian MPs Bridget Archer and Gavin Pearce.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen/Dom Lorrimer
Archer is a leading moderate in the Liberal Party who has regularly crossed the floor, supported the Voice to parliament and recently accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of appearing to weaponise child sexual abuse for political advantage, while Pearce is aligned with the conservative faction.
The pre-selection contests for the pair of seats is now expected to be held in March 2024, according to sources in the Tasmanian Liberal Party who asked not to be named so they could discuss internal party matters.
Archer said that she was unable to comment on internal party matters but added that “I remain a proud member of the Liberal Party”.
“It’s my intention to seek endorsement for the next election. The timing of that is an internal party matter.”
The swing seat of Bass is held by Archer with a margin of just 1.4 per cent. She is the first MP to hold the seat for two consecutive terms since Labor’s Michelle O’Byrne, who held the seat from 1998 to 2004.
Pearce, the shadow assistant minister for health, aged care and Indigenous health services, holds Braddon with a margin of 8 per cent after securing a swing towards him of 4.9 per cent at the 2022 election.
In a reversal of his previous position, Pearce said he planned to stand for the seat again – even though he had previously objected to Archer standing again – and pointedly highlighted his loyalty to the party, after speculation he could stand in the seat for another party.
“Preselections are a matter for the party. I don’t think you’ll find a more loyal party trooper than me,” he said.
“I do intend to run for the Liberal Party, I am a loyal member of the Liberal Party, I don’t set the date for preselection, that’s a matter for the party.”
Three Liberal Party MPs said they believed if Archer was forced out she would stand as an independent and likely win the seat, making Dutton’s task of re-claiming government even more difficult. However, two other Liberal MPs said they believed Archer would lose the seat without the backing of the party organisation.
The Tasmanian Liberal Party’s state director Peter Coulson declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the pre-selection process.
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