AN afternoon was a long time in politics.
Tim McCurdy and Bill Sykes had started the afternoon telling The Border Mail they were firmly behind the then-premier Ted Baillieu after the resignation of backbencher Geoff Shaw.
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Member for Murray Valley Mr McCurdy first felt the winds of change during the dinner break at yesterday’s parliamentary sitting.
“There were whispers around the hall that there may be a showdown in the Liberal Party room. As to what went down in there, we don’t know,” Mr McCurdy said.
Then the news filtered through. Mr Baillieu had resigned.
“I was absolutely shocked. I know the polls had not been in great shape, but I was absolutely blown away,” he said.
Dr Sykes, the member for Benalla, was measured.
“The first rule of politics is to expect the unexpected,” he said.
The National Party members were emphatic in their support for new Premier Denis Napthine.
Dr Sykes has known Dr Napthine, 61, for more than 40 years.
The pair were veterinary students at the University of Melbourne and both completed cadetships at the Department of Agriculture.
Dr Sykes became the veterinarian at Benalla and Dr Napthine in Hamilton.
“I’ve had the utmost admiration for Denis’ strength of character and his ability to perform in the Parliament is second to none,” Dr Sykes said.
“He is an extremely capable person.”
Mr McCurdy said Victorians should expect a different leadership style, but not a huge shift in policy or practices.
“He will be an exceptional leader there is no doubt about that,” Mr McCurdy said.
Mr McCurdy said he didn’t know whether to “laugh or cry” at the change.
“I do feel for Ted as a person and a family man. My heart goes out to him. In terms of Denis, he didn’t wake up this morning wanting to be the premier and he didn’t wake up this morning to challenge the premier,” he said.
Mr McCurdy said Mr Baillieu was calm and “never shot from the hip”.
“If that’s a short-coming then so be it, he will accept that,” he said.
Both Mr McCurdy and Dr Sykes spoke of Mr Baillieu’s focus on strengthening law and order as one of his legacies.
“Ted’s an absolute gentleman, he’s got my utmost respect and I and all of the Nationals are 100 per cent behind Denis,” Dr Sykes said.
Member for Benambra Bill Tilley was unavailable for comment last night.