Turnbull’s shock revenge against Morrison
MALCOLM Turnbull has reached from the political grave to deny Prime Minister Scott Morrison his demand for a Liberal woman candidate in the Wentworth by-election.
Businessman and former ambassador to Israel David Sharma last night was selected by 200 party members to contest the October 20 election in the seat vacated by Mr Turnbull.
And the former prime minister was quick to approve the choice, who he had campaigned for, in a tweet from New York at 3am Sydney time.
"Congratulations from Lucy and me to @DaveSharma - new Liberal candidate for Wentworth," he wrote.
"As a diplomat Dave has represented Australia magnificently overseas, and now if elected will make a great contribution in our national parliament."
Mr Morrison this morning publicly congratulated Mr Sharma, but managed to include in his congratulatory tweet his disappointment a female candidate hadn't been selected.
"Of course I want to see more Liberal women in parliament. But I always want to see the best candidate selected," he tweeted. "That's what members rightly decided last night."
The victor himself told reporters after the gruelling seven-hour ballot he would be "throwing his all" into the by-election battle.
"It's been a long evening, but I'm honoured to have been selected as the Liberal candidate," Mr Sharma said.
He declined to comment on suggestions his preselection had been a rejection of Prime Minister Morrison's support for a woman.
Mr Morrison and senior NSW Liberal figures had lobbied for a woman to be the party pick, in particular Katherine O'Regan, a former deputy mayor of Woollahra who entered the contest as favourite because of the heavyweight backing.
However, she and other preselection candidates were knocked out until the final choice was between Mr Sharma and a Woollahra councillor, Richard Shields. Ms O'Regan came fifth.
The call for a female candidate came after reports Liberal polling showed the Wentworth voters wanted one, and the need for the party to counter damaging claims it was not promoting the election of women.
Further, it is possible one of the strongest contenders for the seat will be a woman, independent Kerryn Phelps. The former AMA president has yet to nominate.
Labor is certain to highlight the snub to a woman candidate, although it is running a man, Tim Murray, in the by-election.
Shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus today said Mr Sharma would be pressed to explain government policies on climate change and energy.