Former Wentworth MP Dave Sharma will be returning to Parliament after winning the hotly contested NSW Liberals Senate pre-selection.
Following a slight delay caused by a technical issue with the electronic voting system, the results were announced on Sunday afternoon (26 November).
Nine Liberals vied to fill the Senate position vacated by former foreign affairs minister Marise Payne, including former ACT Senator Zed Seselja and former NSW Cabinet Minister Andrew Constance.
“Marise was an outstanding Senator, and her many achievements as the former Foreign and Defence Minister have left our state and our nation a far better place,” Mr Sharma said.
“I am privileged to have this opportunity to follow Marise, and her extraordinary contributions – from helping to establish the historic AUKUS partnership to the first ever ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
“I would like to thank the Party members for the opportunity to hold the Albanese Government to account in the Senate over its many missteps and wrong decisions, and to fight for the many households across NSW struggling to deal with Labor’s cost of living crisis.”
“I believe strongly in the need to safeguard Australia’s future for our children, and so I have always been drawn to public service. The opportunity to serve in the Senate will allow me to fight for our nation’s national security interests in a time of greater global turmoil.”
“I want to work alongside our community and businesses, on getting the government to finally focus on Labor’s spiralling cost of living crisis that is having a huge impact on families right across the city and the state.”
Mr Sharma won the final ballot with 295 votes to Mr Constance’s 206. Mr Seselja was in third position, and Jess Collins, a research fellow with the Lowy Institute, was fourth.
Several other high-profile candidates were in the running, including NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s former adviser Monica Tudehope and former RSL NSW president James Brown.
Ms Payne’s retirement prompted the pre-selection race in September after more than 26 years in politics.
Mr Seselja confirmed his political comeback earlier this month, announcing he and his family would be leaving the ACT and hopping over the border to Queanbeyan as part of the “exodus out of Canberra into regional New South Wales”.
The former senator made it clear in a campaign video that he was appealing to the conservative arm of the party, calling for action against “woke indoctrination of our kids in schools” and “the attempts by the government to censor opinions that they don’t agree with”.
Mr Seselja was ousted from the Senate at the 2022 election by independent Senator David Pocock, ending an 18-year run in ACT and federal politics.
He had the support of several Liberal party heavyweights, including former prime minister Tony Abbott, Queensland Senator Matt Canavan, federal frontbencher Angus Taylor and rising MP Andrew Hastie.
Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton had endorsed both Mr Seselija and Mr Constance, who was the candidate backed by some members of the party’s moderate faction.
Mr Constance left state parliament in 2021 to take a run at Federal politics but failed to win the seat of Gilmore in the 2022 election.
Earlier in 2023, he was submitted as a replacement for NSW Senator Jim Molan, who died in January, but he lost that vote 266 to 243.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition Sussan Ley said Mr Sharma would be a “fitting replacement” for Ms Payne and will bring a “unique perspective to the Australian Senate”.
“Dave’s keen foreign policy intellect will be particularly welcome given we are in the most dangerous set of geopolitical circumstances since the Second World War,” she said.
“Over the past 20 years, Dave has sat in the Oval Office with American presidents, helped to broker international peace agreements and has first-hand experience on the ground in Israel as a former Ambassador – all vital experiences which put him in good stead to make a lofty contribution as a Senator for New South Wales.”
Ms Ley said she believes Mr Sharma will be the right candidate to appeal to voters who were swayed to vote Independent in the last election and that she hopes he will be able to help the Liberals win back seats in the city, suburbs and regions.
“Dave Sharma is a great addition to our Federal Liberal team and will fight hard for his community and for all New South Wales residents. Dave has always understood that the Liberal Party is a 50 per cent plus one party, which means to win the next election, we need to present an attractive policy offering to a broad coalition of different demographics,” she said.