'Positive' Guy returns as Vic Libs leader

Matthew Guy has returned as leader of the Victorian Liberals after toppling Michael O'Brien.
Matthew Guy has returned as leader of the Victorian Liberals after toppling Michael O'Brien.

Three years after leading the Victorian Liberals to an election thrashing, Matthew Guy has returned to the top job, pledging to provide a "positive" vision for the state post-pandemic.

Incumbent Michael O'Brien decided not to contest the ballot after a leadership spill motion was moved on Tuesday morning by Tim Smith, a supporter of Mr Guy, and carried 20 votes to 11.

Member for Caulfield David Southwick was elected deputy, replacing Cindy McLeish and defeating treasury spokeswoman Louise Staley and Warrandyte MP Ryan Smith.

Mr Guy then spent the day telling media he would provide Victorians with a "positive agenda" and "hope" for the future.

"Victoria's best days are ahead of it not behind it and we should be focused on that," he told reporters immediately after the leadership spill.

At a later press conference, Mr Guy wanted "Victorians to know there is another way" and it was not a "one-party state".

He called for an end to the state's curfew, a return to face-to-face learning for Year 11 and 12s, and "social interaction bubbles" so families can catch up outdoors in low-risk areas.

He said if elected in 2022 there would be no statewide lockdowns once 70 per cent of eligible Victorians were fully vaccinated.

The 47-year-old member for Bulleen resigned as opposition leader after the disastrous 2018 election loss, which saw the party shed 10 of its 37 lower house seats including blue-ribbon Hawthorn.

An internal post-campaign review found Mr Guy's infamous "lobster with a mobster" dinner with an alleged Mafia leader was partly to blame, as it undermined the party's "tough on crime" policies.

The party also conceded voters saw its "African gangs" focus as a political tactic rather than a plan to make the state safer.

Mr Guy was replaced by Mr O'Brien, who faced sustained criticism for failing to land political blows on Premier Daniel Andrews during the pandemic.

Tuesday's challenge was the second in six months against Mr O'Brien.

Following the vote, he congratulated Mr Guy, called for unity and thanked Victorians for their support during his three years as leader.

"Maybe you've agreed (with me) and maybe you haven't, but it's been such a privilege to be able to have that conversation with Victorians because I love this state," Mr O'Brien said.

He did, however, concede he was disappointed how the coup "panned out".

"It was basically a decision to be made: you either give up your job or you give up your integrity," Mr O'Brien said.

"I've never been the sort of person to play political games. It's just not me, it's not who I am, and I wasn't prepared to change that to get control."

He will contest his seat of Malvern at the election.

The premier wished Mr O'Brien and his family well.

"This would be a very difficult day for him and his family," Mr Andrews said.

Australian Associated Press