Australia’s former ambassador to Israel David Sharma has been preselected by the Liberal Party to contest the Wentworth by-election in Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat, defying calls for a woman to be chosen.
Mr Sharma on Thursday night beat seven other candidates, vying to run in the blue ribbon electorate in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, including former Woollahra deputy mayor Katherine O’Regan, who was backed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
Former PM Mr Turnbull tweeted his support for Mr Sharma, as well as reportedly calling him from New York as leaders from his moderate faction urged him to pull out in favour of a woman.
Sharma will now face a tough by-election battle on October 20, with early polling indicating a big swing against the Liberals, who have never lost Wentworth, which includes Australia’s most expensive suburbs of Point Piper and Vaucluse.
Former Australian Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma (pictured) is Malcolm Turnbull’s preferred candidate to run for the Liberals in next month’s Wentworth by-election
Scores of party faithful filed into the Eastern Suburbs Rugby Union Club in Rose Bay to decide who would contest the seat, only emerging seven hours later.
Ms O’Regan was originally tipped to get the Liberal Party nod after frontrunner Andrew Bragg pulled out of the contest under mounting pressure from Canberra for a woman to be preselected.
Mr Bragg quit the race on Monday, after polling suggested a woman had a better chance of winning the by-election, and also indicated the seat could be lost to a strong independent.
The Liberal preselection for Wentworth started at 5pm at Woollahra’s Easts Rugby Club with Sharma’s candidacy being announced after 1:30am.
New Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured) let his predecessor know who’s now in charge on Thursday morning
The preselection announcement added to an already embarrassing night for the new Prime Minister after a bid for the youth vote left him red faced earlier in the evening.
The 30th Prime Minister of Australia posted a video of question time edited together with the song ‘Be Faithful’ by American rapper Fatman Scoop captioned: ‘QT was on fire today. Good work, team.’
The tweet was savaged online for the song’s inappropriate lyrics (‘who f***ing tonight?’), the allusion to Liberal party member’s wealth (if you’ve got a hundred dollar bill put your hands up) and the possible illegality of using parliamentary footage as promotional content.
After less than three hours online across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Mr Morrison removed the post and apologised for using a song that’s lyrical content was ‘not okay’.
It was the second battle Malcolm Turnbull (pictured with granddaughter Alice) has picked with Scott Morrison in the last 24 hours
Before the pre-selection decision, Malcolm Turnbull had been accused of trying to tear apart the party that sacked him as leader.
Conservative commentator Andrew Bolt attacked the former Liberal Party leader after he urged his successor Scott Morrison on Twitter to refer Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to the High Court over his parliamentary eligibility.
‘He is desperately trying to burn the party to the ground,’ Bolt told viewers of his Sky News program on Thursday evening.
‘The point I have made to Scott Morrison and other colleagues is that given the uncertainty around Peter Dutton’s eligibility, acknowledged by the Solicitor-General, he should be referred to the High Court, as Barnaby was, to clarify the matter,’ Mr Turnbull tweeted on Wednesday night.
Mr Morrison hit back at his bitter predecessor on Thursday morning.
‘Someone once told me in this job, all contributions should be gratefully received. They are,’ he told reporters at Queanbeyan, just outside Canberra.
‘But as the prime minister, I’ll obviously make the decisions in relation to our government on what I believe is in the national interest and based on the most recent and most timely information that I have available to me.
‘Obviously I have a lot of respect for the former prime minister – but as the prime minister now, I’ll make the decisions that I believe are in the best interests of the nation.’
Malcolm Turnbull (right), pictured with wife Lucy is on holidays in New York