Liberal Party preselects Celia Hammond in WA seat of Curtin vacated by former foreign minister Julie Bishop

Updated March 10, 2019 19:24:10

West Australian Liberal Party members have nominated Celia Hammond to replace former foreign minister Julie Bishop as the party’s candidate for the seat of Curtin.

Key points:

  • Ms Hammond was regarded as one of the three main contenders for the seat, in Perth’s western suburbs
  • Curtin is a safe Liberal seat currently held by Ms Bishop with a margin of 20.7 per cent
  • Ms Bishop announced last month she was retiring from politics after moving to the backbench in the wake of last year’s leadership spill

After a five-hour meeting at the Cambridge Bowling Club in Floreat, the 50-year-old lawyer and former vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University was the successful candidate from five nominees vying for the safe Liberal seat in Perth’s western suburbs.

Ms Hammond said she was “humbled and delighted” to have been preselected and added: “Assuming it is endorsed [by the Liberal Party’s state council], I look forward to getting out and working with all the people in the seat of Curtin.”

She was regarded as one of the three main contenders for the seat, along with mining transport executive Anna Dartnell and foreign affairs specialist Erin Watson-Lynn.

Ms Hammond received 51 votes, well ahead of her closest competitor, Ms Dartnell, who got 28 votes.

It is understood that Ms Watson-Lynn and the other two nominees, Karen Caddy and Andres Timmermani, each received just one vote.

Senator Mathias Cormann, a key powerbroker within the WA Liberals, had backed Ms Hammond in the race.

Ms Bishop had insisted she was not backing anyone in particular in the battle for Curtin, but forces loyal to her were known to be behind Ms Watson-Lynn.

A short time after the vote, the former foreign minister tweeted her congratulations to Ms Hammond.

Tight race for ultra-safe seat

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed reports of a bitter tussle between Liberal powerbrokers over the preselection process, describing the commentary as “overstated”.

Ms Hammond had been tipped as the favourite early in the preselection process, but several potentially damaging media reports in the days leading up to the vote led some Liberal members to suggest the race would be tight.

Details emerged of a speech given by Ms Hammond in 2013, in which she raised concerns about “premarital casual sex” and “militant feminism”.

Comments from Ms Watson-Lynn’s Twitter account dating back to 2013 were also published, in which she referred to herself as a “non-Liberal voter” and criticised former prime minister Tony Abbott.

The race to find a Liberal candidate for the blue-ribbon seat of Curtin was triggered last month when Ms Bishop announced she was retiring after a 20-year career in politics.

The surprise announcement, on Parliament’s final sitting day ahead of the federal budget on April 2, ended months of speculation about Ms Bishop’s intentions, following her move to the backbench in the wake of last year’s leadership spill.

Ms Bishop was the first Australian woman to serve as foreign minister, and the first woman to stand for the leadership of the federal Liberal Party.

She has held the seat of Curtin — one of the safest Coalition seats in the nation — since 1998.

Ms Bishop currently holds the electorate by a margin of 20.7 per cent.

Topics: government-and-politics, political-parties, federal-government, liberals, perth-6000, wa

First posted March 10, 2019 18:02:00

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