Liberal frontrunner in Turnbull’s seat pulls out, says candidate should be a woman

F(ile) Outgoing Liberal Party federal director Andrew Bragg Source: AAP

Former business lobbyist Andrew Bragg says he was ‘genuinely shocked’ by Julia Banks’ decision to quit the parliament

The man considered a frontrunner to replace Malcolm Turnbull as the Liberal candidate in Wentworth has pulled out of the race, urging the party to choose a woman instead.

Andrew Bragg cited recent complaints from women within the Liberal party about a bullying culture, with a particular reference to Julia Banks, who will not contest the next election.

“I am stepping aside from the Wentworth preselection,” Mr Bragg, formerly of the Business Council of Australia, wrote on his Facebook.

“I believe the Liberal Party should preselect a woman and my withdrawal can pave the way.”

He said Julia Banks’ allegations of women being bullied by Liberal party colleagues had “genuinely shocked” him.

“Julia is exactly the type of professional woman that the Liberal Party must be able to attract and keep in Parliament. Her loss is an enormous step in the wrong direction.”

It is not clear who Mr Bragg could have in mind.

Sydney city councillor Christine Forster, the sister of Tony Abbott, is the most prominent woman to have indicated her interest in the role so far.

Julia Banks  is the type of woman the Liberal Party needs, says Andrew Bragg.
Julia Banks is the type of woman the Liberal Party needs, says Andrew Bragg.

But Ms Forster has since pulled out of the race, saying her candidacy was being interpreted as a proxy for factional division within the Coalition.

Former political staffer Katherine O'Regan, former president of the NSW Liberal Women's Council Mary-Lou Jarvis and rheumatologist Maxine Szramka are the three women remaining in the preselection race.

Also in the running are Dave Sharma, Richard Shields, Peter King, Carrington Brigham and Michael Feneley. Dave Sharma is the former Australian ambassador to Israel and is considered a strong contender. 

The Sydney seat will head to the polls in the coming months after the resignation of Malcolm Turnbull.

The Liberals are expected to hold the safe blue seat but polling suggests they will suffer a substantial swing against them, potentially opening the door for a popular independent backed by Labor preferences. 

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