A former Catholic university professor and lawyer who once clashed with students over the rainbow flag and railed against “militant” feminism is set to replace former foreign minister Julie Bishop as the Liberal party’s candidate for the Western Australian seat of Curtin.
Celia Hammond was until last month the vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University. She has previously expressed conservative ideas on abortion and gay marriage.
Ms Hammond’s preselection came shortly before the latest Newspoll handed Scott Morrison’s Coalition government its worst result of the year.
If successful at this year’s election, Professor Hammond would become the second woman to hold the safe Liberal seat in Perth’s western suburbs after it was vacated by the party’s former deputy leader.
West Australian Liberal Party members voted the 50-year-old, who received 51 votes ahead of her closest competitor, mining executive Anna Dartnell.
Professor Hammond won preselection ahead of four other Liberal women vying for seat of Curtin, an electorate that had voted 72.2 per cent in favour of gay marriage.
The staunch Catholic and mother of three had previously described the Rainbow flag symbol of the LGBTIQ movement as divisive and politically-charged, according to The Australian newspaper.
According to the paper, in a 2013 speech Professor Hammond also said she did not identify as a feminist because she claimed the movement had become “pro-abortion, anti-men, anti-tradition and anti-family”.
Professor Hammond said she was “humbled and delighted” to be pre-selected and was looking forward to working with the electorate of Curtin, in Perth’s ‘old money’ western suburbs.
Ms Bishop, who had refused to publicly back a candidate since announcing her retirement last month, tweeted her congratulations.
“I wish her all the very best in upcoming election. There is no greater calling than representing your community, your state and your country in the national Parliament,” she wrote.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted: “As a former Uni Vice-Chancellor, Celia will bring great experience, adding further strength to our team.”
Congratulations to Professor Celia Hammond, selected today as our Liberal Candidate for Curtin. As a former Uni Vice-Chancellor, Celia will bring great experience, adding further strength to our team. pic.twitter.com/5z7k3U9Mfu
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 10, 2019
Poll deals a blow to Coalition hopes
Meanwhile, the Coalition has slumped to its worst result of 2019 and its 50th consecutive Newspoll loss, with Labor extending its lead to 54-46 on the two-party-preferred vote.
The Newspoll, conducted between March 7 and March 10 across the regions and capital cities, showed the Coalition dropping a point in primary vote to 36 per cent.
The result showed a two-point turnaround in Labor’s favour on a two-party preferred basis. It also showed One Nation’s primary vote jumping two points to seven per cent.
The Greens remained steady at 9 per cent while other minor parties dropped a point to 9 per cent.
Scott Morrison maintained his lead over Bill Shorten as the preferred prime minister, although the gap has narrowed to just seven points.
Mr Morrison fell a point to 43 per cent as the Labor leader rose to 36 per cent.
The dire poll result came as Liberal-turned-independent Julia Banks named Tony Abbott as the ringleader of the campaign to depose Malcolm Turnbull in last year’s leadership spill.
Speaking on Channel Ten’s The Project, Ms Banks also named Greg Hunt – the health minister and Banks’ direct opponent at the next election – as a “prime mover” in the August 2018 coup.
“It was certainly led by Tony Abbott,” she said Sunday night. “Tony Abbott, Peter Dutton, Greg Hunt, they were the prime movers.
“People were making their vote based on promises of promotion or promises of ministerial appointments.”
NSW election snub
Mr Morrison was noticeably silent as the NSW Liberal party launched its election campaign on Sunday.
Both leaders of NSW Liberal and Labor took to their respective stages with promises on education, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian promising voters could have it all – schools and a new sports stadium for Sydney.
Speaking in Sydney’s southwest, Labor leader Michael Daley had on hand federal Labor leader Bill Shorten, who made a speech in support of Mr Daley.
But while the Premier promised a returning Liberal government would “get the job done”, Mr Morrison was left in the wings without taking to the stage to address supporters.
When asked why he didn’t address the Liberal launch, the Prime Minister said he was happy enough to be “participating in the campaign”.
Polling suggests the ALP has edged slightly ahead in the election race, with voting to open in NSW on Monday.
– with AAP