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July 14th, 2018 by admin

Tony Abbott intervenes in blue ribbon Brighton seat gender wars

Louise Asher has announced her retirement from state politics at the next election. Photo: Simon O’Dwyer Tony Abbott has endorsed a rival candidate and Peta Credlin previously said she would not work with James Newbury (inset)
Nanjing Night Net

The contest to replace retiring MP Louise Asher in the blue ribbon state Liberal seat of Brighton has erupted into a bitter stoush played out along gender lines, prompting an intervention from former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy’s push to boost the number of Liberal women in Parliament has already been dealt a blow, after Ms Asher glowingly endorsed James Newbury, a former staffer to Denis Napthine, as her successor.

However, Mr Abbott has thrown his support behind local councillor Felicity Frederico, even though Mr Newbury once worked for him.

Ms Asher, who served as a minister in the Kennett, Baillieu and Napthine governments, has been a longstanding advocate for greater female representation in parliament.

In 2013, she warned that the party was in danger of “losing a generation” unless more women were preselected to run for politics.

“The party has been very good at preselecting young men, but it needs to be a lot better at preselection of young women so they can eventually take on senior roles,” she said at the time.

Weeks after announcing her retirement from her 26-year career in State Parliament, Ms Asher has written to preselection delegates endorsing Mr Newbury as “one of the most outstanding individuals with whom I have had the pleasure to work”.

“James possesses the ideal combination of characteristics and skills that the Member for Brighton should have – a person with significant policy expertise; a person who treats community members with respect and listens to their concerns; a person integrated into the Brighton community; and a person with the potential to secure rapid promotion to a senior level in the Parliamentary party,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott has also intervened, writing a letter in praise of another candidate, Bayside councillor Felicity Frederico, stating that he would be “disappointed and surprised” if she was not selected for a position in State Parliament.

Mr Abbott’s endorsement of Ms Frederico has been interpreted by some as a significant slight, given Mr Newbury formerly worked for him.

“We particularly need more strong, articulate and highly principled female MPs who can be standard bearers for our Party’s values,” Mr Abbott says in the letter.

This preselection battle follows a warning from Mr Guy that it was time for his party to “get serious” about its lack of women, setting a target to boost female representation by 10 percentage points at every election.

If the target is to be achieved, the proportion of female Liberal MPs would need to rise from 27 to 37 per cent by the time of the 2018 election, and then to 47 per cent by the 2022 election.

The endorsement of Mr Newbury also comes as a blow for upper house MP Margaret Fitzherbert, a local who was Ms Asher’s electorate chair for about 10 years and is seen by some as strong contender for the coveted Liberal seat.

Mr Newbury is a polarising character. According to political journalist Niki Savva, who described Mr Newbury as “one of the Coalition’s sharpest researchers cum political advisers”, former prime minister Tony Abbott’s chief of staff Peta Credlin denied him positions with two federal ministers, saying she could not work with either of those offices if he was employed there.

But Mr Newbury also has some powerful backers. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop wrote a general reference for him in June, describing him as a “hard-working and loyal professional”.

Liberal Party rules prevent party members from talking to the media about preselection battles. Ms Asher, Mr Newbury, Ms Fitzherbert and Ms Frederico all declined to comment.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.