Malcolm Turnbull won’t intervene to save frontbencher Jane Prentice, despite a veteran Liberal MP labelling her disendorsement a “bloody disgrace”.
As Liberal MPs aired their disappointment and paid tribute to Ms Prentice, Mr Turnbull argued the Assistant Minister for Disability had lost the endorsement of party members in a “grassroots preselection system”.
“We are very sorry to see Jane’s been defeated, but this is the consequence of having a grassroots political party,” the Prime Minister said.
“You have to win the support of your local members to be re-endorsed. That’s something all of us have to do.”
The moderate Liberal was defeated by her former staffer, Brisbane City councillor Julian Simmonds, by a two-to-one margin at a preselection contest in Brisbane on the weekend.
Veteran Queensland Liberal MP Warren Entsch said he was profoundly disappointed Ms Prentice had lost the contest, calling her disendorsement a “bloody disgrace”.
“I think it sends a very, very bad message with regards to women in politics in Queensland,” he told ABC radio.
Both Mr Turnbull and Peter Dutton confirmed they provided endorsements for Ms Prentice during the preselection campaign.
Coalition senior ministers paid tribute to Ms Prentice on Monday, but none argued the decision should be overturned.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she would like to see more women in politics, noting that Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer had created a “fighting fund” to assist woman candidates.
Queensland LNP leader Deb Frecklington conceded her party needed to do more to lift its female representation.
Ms Frecklington said she was mentoring women to run for the party at the next state poll, but argued Ms Prentice had lost in a democratic vote.
“As a member, I can be disappointed in an outcome but I’m not going to be a big bully boy and stand over the top of our members,” she said.
“That is exactly what the LNP is all about, giving the grassroots members the right to their say.”
Ms Prentice holds the safe seat of Ryan in Brisbane’s western suburbs.
She is yet to comment publicly on the saga.
On Monday, the Australian Financial Review reported that the Western Australian Liberal Party had intervened to save Liberal MP Ian Goodenough from losing his preselection.
Treasurer Scott Morrison was forced to defend his suggestion there was no case for the party to intervene in Ms Prentice’s case when it emerged his own pre-selection had been threatened in 2009.
While an opposing candidate eventually withdrew, reportedly under pressure from party officials, Mr Morrison on Monday denied the party had intervened to help him.
“There were issues with that candidate at the time,” he said.
The only other Coalition MP from Queensland, Michelle Landry, lashed the outcome at the weekend, saying that female party members were threatening to quit the party.