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Liberal Party President defends Downer and Co -

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ELIZABETH JACKSON: The new Federal President of the Liberal Party says Alexander Downer and Peter
Costello should be allowed to decide themselves when it's time to leave politics.

Former Victorian treasurer during the Kennett years, Alan Stockdale, has been appointed President
of the Liberal Party, as part of the changing of the guard.

With the prospect of a by-election as early as June, Alan Stockdale says politicians shouldn't feel
pressured into leaving at a particular time.

Alison Caldwell reports.

ALISON CALDWELL: The member for Higgins, former treasurer Peter Costello hasn't actually announced
his resignation but he's certainly signalled his intention to leave politics some time soon.

He's held the plum liberal seat in inner east Melbourne for the past 18 years but it's likely he'll
force a by-election well before this year is out.

The new Federal President of the Liberal Party, Victorian Alan Stockdale, says it's Costello's
choice when to go.

ALAN STOCKDALE: Everybody has to determine their own timing of leaving politics. If people are in
very senior positions, it's extremely difficult for them to leave at elections, so obviously it's
not desirable to create by-elections willy-nilly, but if people take the view that they want to
pursue other interests, I don't think anybody has the right to say to them well you just have to
stay there for the rest of the term.

ALISON CALDWELL: Two former prime ministers have held the seat, Harold Holt and John Gorton.

The Liberal Party is searching for a star candidate to fill any possible vacancy.

Names touted include Harold Holt's grandson Robert Holt and Tom Elliott, son of former Liberal
Party treasurer John Elliott.

With that characteristic Elliott nose, Tom Elliott appears regularly as a business commentator on
the ABC's Inside Business program.

It's understood former Aboriginal Affairs Minister Mal Brough was also considered.

Last night the ABC's Stateline program reported that senior Liberals in Higgins say he took his eye
off the ball in his own electorate in Queensland, losing his seat with a ten per cent swing.

Victoria's Liberal leader Ted Baillieu isn't giving anything away.

TED BAILLIEU: We have a Member for Higgins and as far as I'm concerned Peter is staying, unless he
has said otherwise. But any seats of the nature of Higgins or other should have a candidate with a
national profile and that's important.

ALISON CALDWELL: Recently, former prime minister Malcolm Fraser described the Victorian Liberal
Party as being dominated by ideological conservatives who branch stack and stifle dissent.

Alan Stockdale rejects those views.

ALAN STOCKDALE: I think Malcolm exaggerated the difficulties in the Party. Any diverse organisation
is always going to have some people who feel they're not getting the opportunity to express their
view.

ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's the new Federal President of the Liberal Party, Alan Stockdale, with
Alison Caldwell.