The Liberal Party has no intention of allowing the Nationals Bruce Scott become Speaker while Philip Ruddock lacks support as the jostling begins in earnest to replace Bronwyn Bishop.
Sources have told The Australian Financial Review that the position will be filled by a Liberal and that the party room, not the Prime Minster, will decide.
Early frontrunners include Victorian MPs Tony Smith and Russell Broadbent, South Australians Andrew Southcott and Rowan Ramsey, NSW frontbencher Bob Baldwin and Queensland’s Teresa Gambaro.
The victor will be chosen by a ballot of the party room when Parliament resumes next week and numbers are starting to be crunched.
SMITH, SOUTHCOTT LEAD PACK
Mr Smith is considered a favourite because he is popular with both the left and right factions in Victoria, is experienced and has been a leading advocate for electoral reform.
Similarly, Mr Southcott has two decades experience in Parliament and, like Mr Smith, comes from a state where the Coalition badly needs votes.
Mr Ruddock, who was sacked as whip after the February leadership ballot, has said publicly he is prepared to take on the job but there is little support for the veteran.
“It’s not a retirement job,” said one powerbroker.
SCOTT, BALDWIN DISCOUNTED
Mr Scott, the deputy speaker, is keen to fill the role until he retires from politics at the next election.
But senior Liberals dismissed out of hand giving the job to a National.
“We don’t give anything away,” said one while another confirmed “we’re not going to set a precedent”.
One factor favouring the successful candidate would be to have a relative safe seat because the Speaker’s ability to engage in the daily political brawl is limited.
Mr Baldwin, a parliamentary secretary, is the only frontbencher in the mix and appointing him would require a minor reshuffle, something everyone is keen to avoid.
“There should be only one moving part, let the party room fix if and get the focus back on Bill Shorten,” said a source.
Mr Shorten said Labor would be happy with Mr Scott or anyone else who was nt a political warrior.
“I just think we need people who are not fierce, right-wing political extremists,” he said.
PARTY ANGER LINGERS
There is still significant anger in the party that Mr Abbott let the matter drag on fort as long as it did.
His statement on Sunday that Ms Bishop was ot at fault but was a victim of the nebulous expenses system has also left many unimpressed.
“With the public, it’s like we’re showing no contrition here,” said an MP.
“No-one did anything wrong, yet the Speaker lost her job.”
Mr Abbott has ordered a review of the rules but Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull indicated that proper use of expenses was ultimately a matter of personal judgment, saying Mrs Bishop need not have opted for a helicopter ride from Melbourne to Geelong.
“There are some areas of ambiguity in the entitlement system but I really think … the fundamental principle is often one of common sense,” he said.
“It was Bronwyn’s decision, the helicopter was her call. She didn’t have to get a helicopter to Geelong, that’s what set this thing off.”