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March 06, 2019 15:33:45

Australian Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi has fired a tongue-in-cheek parting shot at former colleague Christopher Pyne, as the preselection battle for the seat of Sturt intensifies.

Key points:

  • Two candidates have so far announced an intention to seek preselection for Sturt
  • James Stevens and Joanna Andrew both have strong connections to the Liberal Party
  • Ms Andrew belongs to the conservative faction and is the niece of Neil Andrew

Last week, Mr Pyne announced his retirement from politics and said he would not recontest his seat, which he has held for the past 26 years.

When asked this morning on ABC Radio Adelaide whether he would miss Mr Pyne, Senator Bernardi — who was also a member of the party’s conservative faction before defecting — replied “the short answer is ‘not particularly'”.

He described Mr Pyne as a cross between Frank Spencer, the bumbling hero of the BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, and Frank Underwood, the Machiavellian protagonist of Netflix drama House of Cards.

“I’m no longer part of the Liberal Party so we don’t cross swords in that,” Senator Bernardi said.

“He’s this combination of Frank Spencer and Frank Underwood, isn’t he? And it hasn’t worked well for politics, I don’t think.

“But others will have a different view.”

The remark drew a laugh from Labor senator Penny Wong.

“I’m just trying to deal with the image of Frank Spencer and Frank Underwood,” she said.

“Christopher’s a very entertaining individual … he’s brilliant, he’s tenacious at times to the point of ruthlessness, but he has been a worthy opponent.

“He is an extremely senior Cabinet minister, he’s their senior tactician, he’s leader of the House.”

Preselection battle heating up

Candidates from opposite sides of the Liberal Party’s factional divide have so far flagged an intention to seek preselection for the eastern suburbs seat.

They include James Stevens, who resigned as SA Premier Steven Marshall’s chief of staff in order to run, and Adelaide lawyer Joanna Andrew.

Both Mr Stevens and Mr Pyne are from the party’s moderate faction.

“I’m putting myself as a very real and different alternative to what the party has as a fait accompli,” Ms Andrew told The Australian.

Ms Andrew, who is a partner at law firm Mellor Olsson, belongs to the Liberal Party’s conservative faction and is also the niece of former Howard government speaker Neil Andrew.

“I have lived in the real world, never been a (political) staffer, and have extensive business experience,” she said.

No comment on Bishop claim

The preselection has been complicated by the ongoing debate within the Liberal Party on female representation.

Earlier this week, conservative Liberal MP Tony Pasin listed the names of several women he said would make good candidates, and said he hoped they were “considering it actively”.

“I’ve indicated it’s a gilt-edged opportunity for the very talented and articulate women in the Liberal Party to nominate, and I’m encouraging them,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide on Monday.

“There are very talented women in the Liberal Party who I’m sure would describe themselves as moderate.”

In a recent interview with Western Australia’s The Sunday Times newspaper, former foreign minister Julie Bishop blamed Mr Pyne for blocking her bid to secure the party’s leadership during last year’s leadership spill.

However Mr Pyne, who was late to his regular radio appearance on commercial radio station FiveAA this morning, would not be drawn on the accusation.

“I don’t see any point in raking over those old coals,” he said.

“It’s time to look to the future.”

The ABC has contacted Mr Pyne for comment.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

federal-elections,

federal-government,

elections,

liberals,

political-parties,

australia,

adelaide-5000,

sa

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