Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended his decision to endorse Warren Mundine as the Liberal candidate in the marginal seat of Gilmore.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his decision to favour ex-Labor president Warren Mundine as Liberal candidate in the NSW marginal seat of Gilmore is aimed at ensuring his party is re-elected at this year's federal election.
"I make no apologies for recruiting a great candidate, and I make no apologies for ensuring that they are in this election and that they are going toe to toe every day with the Labour Party," he told reporters in the NSW town of Nowra.
"It is a circuit breaker. It is an opportunity to get behind a first class candidate, someone who understands the issues in regional Australia."
Warren Mundine said he has long wanted to represent a regional seat and is looking forward to the election contest.
He said he would prioritise addressing issues of Indigenous disadvantage, including responding to the spate of suicides involving Indigenous girls.
"These kids are choosing death before life. We've got to deal with those issues before we start talking about changing Australia Day. We've got to deal with jobs in those rural and remote communities, where people are trapped in welfare traps. We've got to deal with incarceration rates of Aboriginal people in juvenile detention and jail."
He insisted he was not frustrated with the view of the Prime Minister to keep January 26 as Australia Day, even though he personally would prefer that the date be changed to observe Indigenous cultural sensitivities.
The day of British settlement is viewed by some Indigenous Australians as Invasion Day or the Day of mourning.
Grant Schultz criticises 'deals behind closed doors'
The Liberal dumped as a candidate in favour of an ex-Labor president is warning his former party that deals behind closed doors won't save them at the next federal election.
The contest for the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore is now looking crowded, with the Nationals likely to run a candidate, along with Labor, the Liberals and ex-Liberal Grant Schultz, who will now run as an independent.
Schultz, the local real estate agent, was axed as the Liberal candidate on Tuesday when the NSW state executive decided to replace him with former Labor national president Warren Mundine.
"You need to turn your attention to your electorates. Gender will not win an electorate, deals behind closed doors will not win an election," Mr Schultz told Sky News on Wednesday.
"If they want to win this election they need to engage with their community, they need to listen to their community and they need to represent their community."
Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants Mr Mundine to run in the seat, which is held by retiring Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis.
"I've never met the man (Mr Mundine). I'm sure he's a great bloke. I don't know what interest he has in Gilmore, or if he's ever been here, I've never seen him," Mr Schultz said.
"I just hope he hasn't been taken as a patsy."
Push for Katrina Hodgkinson to run for the seat of Gilmore
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he'd spoken to former NSW Nationals minister Katrina Hodgkinson about running, describing her as a fierce fighter.
"She's somebody who understands what it takes to win a three-cornered contest. She also understands what it's like to be a cabinet minister," he told reporters in regional NSW.
Mr Schultz was suspicious for months that something wasn't right with his endorsement.
He was chosen by the local party branch in December as a candidate but says an opinion poll mentioning Mr Mundine was distributed through the electorate prior to that.
The son of a Liberal Party stalwart says others have cancelled their party memberships after being "let down and betrayed" but he had not asked them to do so.
Foreign Affairs Minister Payne welcomes Mundine as Liberal candidate
Mr Mundine, who as of Tuesday was not a paid-up Liberal Party member and did not meet the criteria of six months as a member before becoming a candidate, was the ALP's national president from 2006 to 2007.
He quit Labor in 2012.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne says it's a "great achievement" that Mr Mundine wants to join the Liberal Party.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said Ms Sudmalis' departure from Gilmore was evidence of coalition problems.
"She has had to put up her hand and say she can't continue because of the bullying within the Liberal Party. Now we see chaos and division," he told reporters.