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'I know the people of Mandurah have my back': Kirkup rules out moving to safer seat

New Opposition leader Zak Kirkup speaks on Tuesday.
New Opposition leader Zak Kirkup speaks on Tuesday.

New Opposition leader Zak Kirkup says he is confident he will retain his Dawesville seat at the next election.

One of the Liberals' strongest performers since winning the marginal seat in 2017, the former political staffer faces a titanic battle.

No Liberal seat is tighter than Mr Kirkup's seat, which he holds by a margin of just 0.7 per cent.

"There has been comment as to whether my seat is too marginal," he told a press conference in his inaugural speech as Liberals leader on Tuesday.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't know the people of Mandurah have my back."

He ruled out moving to a safer seat.

"I love Mandurah. I think it's the greatest place on earth. I would like to continue to represent them as long as they will have me."

Mr Kirkup was this morning declared leader of the WA Liberals, after Bateman MP Dean Nalder issued a statement just after 9am withdrawing his nomination.

The appointment makes him the second-youngest in WA history after Labor's Thomas Bath, who assumed the role in 1906 at the age of 31.

He is the youngest Liberal to take on the job after Matt Birney, who was 35.

He took the opportunity to give a shout out to his electorate during the press conference.

"I'm proud of my local community in Mandurah and the Peel region," he said.

"They are a community which tackles the problems head on."

He said Mandurah residents "still smiled at each other walking down the street".

Mr Kirkup spoke in his maiden speech about how the family would rise and fall with the state's fortunes.

"I don't come from the establishments, I don't come from money, I learned the value of hard work," he said.

He said his dad worked as "a tradie" and his mum still works as a retail assistant in a chemist.

Party divisions, a pandemic and a rampantly popular premier are among the challenges he will face.

A series of disastrous polls prompted Liza Harvey's resignation just four months before election.

The strains within the party were laid bare when Ms Harvey's predecessor Mike Nahan fronted the media, calling for influential upper house MP Peter Collier and fellow veteran Bill Marmion to retire so the party could regenerate.

A "despondent" Mr Nahan, who has already confirmed he will retire at the March election, said powerbrokers continued to hold too much sway and the Liberals were heading to the polls with no new policies and little money.

The party later sought to present a united front, with the entire partyroom standing behind Mr Kirkup and newly-elected deputy Libby Mettam at a press conference.

"What members say on the way in, I'll leave it up to them, but ultimately we're standing here today as a united team and I know that's what matters most to people in Western Australia," Mr Kirkup told reporters.

Having already been reduced to just 13 of 59 seats in the lower house, the Liberals have faced months of dreadful polling.

Premier Mark McGowan's approval ratings have meanwhile reached record highs, with voters strongly backing WA's hard border closures.

Labor is widely expected to win a second term and is targeting further marginal Liberal seats after a landslide victory in 2017.

"I've fought 14 elections in my time. Not one of them is unwinnable," Mr Kirkup said.

"I am up for the fight, the team behind me is up for the fight."

Liberal MPs had grown increasingly anxious about the prospects of an electoral annihilation under Ms Harvey, who was criticised for equivocating on the state's border closures.

Mr Kirkup struck a different tone, saying the Liberals would back in the chief health officer's advice "100 per cent".

"There will be no deviation between the Liberal party and the Labor party when it comes to COVID-19," he said.