The National Party’s president wants a woman candidate to replace disgraced MP Andrew Broad when he leaves parliament next year.
Mr Broad will not re-contest his safe northern Victorian seat, following revelations this week he travelled to Hong Kong and dined with a younger woman he met on a “sugar daddy” website, charging taxpayers for the domestic leg of the trip.
“I would like to see a Nationals woman candidate for Mallee,” Nationals Party president Larry Anthony told The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday.
Mr Anthony’s enthusiasm for a female candidate in Mallee – which the Nationals hold by more than 20 per cent – is apparently shared by other prominent Nationals.
Current deputy leader Bridget McKenzie is tipped for a possible tilt at the candidacy. Doing so would mean a move from the Senate to the lower house, which would also put her in a position to become the first woman to lead the Nationals.
Details about the meeting between the woman, named as “Amy”, and the married Mr Broad, 43, surfaced in New Idea magazine this week.
“After recent media stories about my private life, it is clear that the people of Mallee will be best served in the next parliament by a different Nationals candidate,” he said on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said Mr Broad had shown a “complete lack of discretion” but stressed he was just one individual in a hard-working team.
“I’d like to think there’s not going to be long-term damage,” he said.
But he also took a swipe at the disgraced MP.
“Quite frankly, I don’t think you can teach common sense,” Mr McCormack said.
“I’m amazed that they have time to be able to do these sorts of things, let alone actually then have the lack of discretion to go and do them.”
Mr McCormack said he was disappointed and disgusted by the “sugar daddy” saga but it was time to move on. Stepping aside was the right decision for Mr Broad, he said.
“In doing so he has accepted the sort of behaviour which has prompted his decision is inappropriate and unacceptable,” he said.
Mr McCormack said he would speak to Senator McKenzie later on Wednesday. But the Nationals usually put “local champions” into seats, he said.
“We don’t necessarily parachute candidates,” he said.
Mr Broad will remain in federal parliament representing the Nationals until the election, which is due in May, and won’t switch to the cross bench. The decision to see out his term will earn him about $85,000 of his backbencher’s salary.
The woman Mr Broad met in Hong Kong told New Idea he had lied about his age, sent her numerous text messages that turned to a “more sexual nature” following the dinner, and compared himself to James Bond.
On Tuesday, Mr Broad agreed to pay back $479.62 for domestic flights between Mildura and Melbourne, on September 2 and 7, which were part of the overall trip to Hong Kong.
His downfall comes after he called earlier in 2018 for former party leader Barnaby Joyce to step down following revelations of his extramarital affair.
Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer said Mr Broad’s behaviour had fallen short of community standards.
“There’s no doubt that Andrew Broad has not behaved in a way that has met the standards that he himself would set for others,” she told ABC radio on Wednesday.
Ray Kingston, a former mayor of Yarriambiack Shire (just south of Mildura), has flagged his intentions to run as an independent in the plum seat of Mallee.