‘Yet another bloke’: Liberals pre-select Morrison replacement

Simon Kennedy has been pre-selected for Scott Morrison's seat of Cook.

Simon Kennedy has been pre-selected for Scott Morrison's seat of Cook. Photo: AAP

Consultant Simon Kennedy will fight to retain former prime minister Scott Morrison’s safe seat of Cook after being pre-selected by Liberal Party faithful on Monday night.

Hundreds of party members cast their ballots in the Sydney shire for the candidate they thought was best, as Morrison’s resignation triggers another byelection.

Kennedy beat Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce by 158 votes to 90 in the first round.

The only woman in the ballot, who had been endorsed by another former prime minister John Howard, was war widow Gwen Cherne.

The Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner came in third with 35 votes while Ben Britton was fourth with 13.

Earlier, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Cook was not a seat Labor was expected to win.

He criticised the Liberals for failing to pre-select more women.

“I noticed that the Liberal Party have the opportunity to finally select a woman candidate,” he told ABC Radio ahead of Monday’s vote.

“But we’ll wait and see whether they actually do or whether it’s yet another bloke sitting behind Peter Dutton just saying no to everything.”

Women comprise about 30 per cent of the federal Coalition party room.

Liberal MP Keith Wolahan said the conservative party had “significant work to do” on getting more women into parliament.

“It looks like we’re falling short of the target, it really does,” Wolahan said during an appearance on Q+A on Monday night.

“The Liberal Party is ready to preselect women, but we need to lift our game in making it happen more often.”

But Wolahan said it was also important that candidates were chosen democratically.

“What we have to do is to feed through members and preselect candidates who will then succeed.”

Cook’s new candidate

Kennedy is a partner of consulting firm Banksia, after leaving McKinsey, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He contested Howard’s former seat of Bennelong at the 2022 federal election but came up short against Labor’s Jerome Laxale after an almost 8 per cent swing against the Liberals.

Cook is a safe Liberal seat — Morrison holds it with a more than 12 per cent margin on 55 per cent of the primary vote.

The former prime minister experienced a more than 8 per cent drop in his primary vote at the last election.

Labor is yet to determine whether it will run a candidate against Kennedy in Cook.

The Cook byelection will be the second this year following Saturday’s poll in the Victorian seat of Dunkley. It was triggered by the death of Labor MP Peta Murphy in December.

Jodie Belyea retained the seat for Labor, fighting off a 3.5 per cent swing to the Liberals on a two-party preferred basis.

Labor’s primary vote increased slightly, while the Liberals recorded a 6.5 per cent uptick.

One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party did not run candidates.

-with AAP

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