Ann Sudmalis’s predicted exit comes as the Morrison Government is under fire over its lack of female members. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Ann Sudmalis’s predicted exit comes as the Morrison Government is under fire over its lack of female members. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

‘Betrayal’: MP names and shames 'bully'

OUTGOING federal MP Ann Sudmalis has blasted NSW state Liberal Gareth Ward, blaming what she says is his campaign of bullying and betrayal as the reason she's quitting parliament.

Ms Sudmalis will quit at the next election, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Scott Morrison's attempts to get more women into parliament.

The MP used parliamentary privilege on Monday to name and shame Liberal state MP Gareth Ward for his "narcissistic revenge" against her.

"Bullying, betrayal and backstabbing have been the hallmarks of one of my state Liberal colleagues Gareth Ward over the past six and a half years," Ms Sudmalis told parliament.

She described a trifecta of "sour grapes" preselection candidate Andrew Guile, Mr Ward's manipulation of people and numbers, and local newspaper editor John Hanscombe's reporting.

"I have decided that enough is enough," Ms Sudmalis said.

Ann Sudmalis made her statement in the House of Representatives chamber. Picture: Kym Smith
Ann Sudmalis made her statement in the House of Representatives chamber. Picture: Kym Smith

"After seeing the betrayal of amazing and dedicated committee members, who are now being contacted by the new committee members asking for help, the whole scenario is pathetic."

Mr Ward has issued a strong defence this morning, denying Ms Sudmalis's claims to ABC's AM.

"I can absolutely, categorically rule that out, and anyone who believes that is true should say so publicly," he said. "That is just not true."

 

Gareth Ward challenged Ms Sudmalis to make the claims outside of parliament.
Gareth Ward challenged Ms Sudmalis to make the claims outside of parliament.

 

Mr Morrison tried to persuade the marginal seat-holder not to quit politics, but Ms Sudmalis knocked back his request and decided to bow out.

She holds the southern NSW coastal seat of Gilmore with a margin of just 0.7 per cent and has faced a preselection challenge from local real estate agent Grant Schultz.

In an interview with the Australian Financial Review yesterday, Ms Sudmalis said branch stacking and undermining at a local level prompted her decision.

"This is absolutely not about Scott, he's a very dear friend and he's a very good man," she told the AFR.

"I believe he can bring our party together, he's a visionary, Scott is the man who can pull this country forward."

While Ms Sudmalis was confident she could win preselection, the extent of branch stacking would make her job difficult, she said.

"I can't work with the team there anymore, they don't know the electorate well, they don't know how to campaign."

 

Ann Sudmalis has confirmed she will not contest the next election. Picture Kym Smith
Ann Sudmalis has confirmed she will not contest the next election. Picture Kym Smith

 

Labor MP Stephen Jones, whose seat of Whitlam borders the Gilmore electorate, said Ms Sudmalis had given in to factional infighting.

"Ms Sudmalis has been caught up in Liberal factional warfare on the South Coast. To her credit she has been batting on, but it now appears that her heart is no longer in it," Mr Jones tweeted on Monday.

The MP's possible exit comes as the Liberal Party faces a backlash over its lack of commitment to preselecting women.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may now lose another female MP. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison may now lose another female MP. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Mr Morrison backed a female candidate to run in the seat of Wentworth, vacated by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, but the preselection was won by former diplomat Dave Sharma.

AAP understands only six women have been preselected for safe Liberal seats across the country.

Fighting for her political future earlier this year, Ms Sudmalis said the government was doing a "damn good" job and there was no reason to knock her off.

"We've got a great horse - the government's doing a phenomenal job - so why flick the jockey off? That's my words to my preselectors."

Mr Morrison stood beside Ms Sudmalis to offer his full support.

"Ann has demonstrated that she is the right candidate here, because she has won this seat in tough contests," he said at the time.

"If it wasn't for Ann at the last election, Bill Shorten would now be prime minister."

Today's blow to Mr Morrison comes on the back of Victorian MP Julia Banks also deciding not to contest the next election.


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