There’s been a spotlight on Wentworth ever since former PM and long-term seat holder Malcolm Turnbull was ousted from the top job last month.
Following Turnbull’s departure from Parliament, new PM Scott Morrisson and other Liberal heavyweights called for a woman to take the reins. Instead, former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma was preselected comfortably; further underscoring the distinct underrepresentation of women in the LNP.
And this decision may just come to bite them in the proverbial backside.
Especially considering Kerryn Phelps announced her candidacy as an independent over the weekend, declaring that she’ll bring integrity back to politics.
Starting her career as a GP before moving onto head up the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Phelps’ skill-set is dynamic. Now a popular Sydney City Councillor, she understands the world of politics, and poses a very real threat to the Liberal Party’s pursuit of retaining the historically safe seat.
But she’s not getting ahead of herself just yet, saying she doesn’t presume the battle before her is an easy one.
“I don’t presume I can win this seat at all. It’s going to be a very tough battle,” she told ABC radio this morning.
“We expected the local member for Wentworth Malcolm Turnbull would still be there as we speak, and it’s only been three weeks since he was ousted as leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party. That’s why we’re in this situation of having a by-election. When people talk about this opportunity, this is a situation that has been created by Liberals because of their shenanigans in Canberra.”
At the same time, Phelps sees the opportunity to disrupt the political status quo, saying she sees a growing shift in electoral support toward independent voices.
“There will be some rusted-on Liberals, but there are also some very angry, frustrated despairing Liberals, and people from other parties looking at the revolving door of leadership in Canberra saying this just isn’t good enough.
“We’ve seen a trend towards independent voices in federal Parliament of late — it’s an expression of the frustration people have with the major parties,” she said.
“That’s the reason I’m an independent — it’s because you can speak your mind, so that issues of importance to the people of Wentworth can be voted on behalf of those people. That’s the whole point of the House of Representatives — they’re supposed to represent the people.”
Phelps says her campaign will be run on the issues that matter; conveying empathetic and progressive leadership.
“I think Australian people want to see a government with heart — people who actually speak from the heart on issues like asylum seeker treatment. The way they’re being treated on Manus Island and Nauru is a disgrace. It’s not a difficult ask to have humane treatment of people seeking asylum,” she said.
“I think the people of Wentworth are interested in climate change. They want to be able to hand over a healthy planet to the next generation. It’s not good enough to say Australia can just step back because other countries have it worse. We need to provide certainty and security on renewable energy investment so we can bring power prices down in future, and have that certainty and clarity.”