Independent Kerryn Phelps has officially won the Wentworth by-election, causing the Coalition Government to lose its Lower House majority in Canberra.
This win is historic in that the seat of Wentworth in eastern Sydney, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s old electorate, has historically always been held by the Liberal party and its political predecessors. The by-election was triggered when Mr Turnbull was ousted from the country’s top job by a leadership spill which saw Scott Morrison become Prime Minister.
The by-election, which took place over the weekend, saw the Liberals suffer a near 20% swing against their candidate Dave Sharma.
In her victory address, Dr Phelps described her campaign as a “David and Goliath struggle” and thanked her supporters.
In accepting defeat, Mr Sharma said that Dr Phelps was “formidable” and that he accepted the people of Wentworth had “very strong views” which they made heard with their votes.
Mr Sharma said that his first political campaign was “bruising” but also said that it was a “humbling and enlightening experience”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that the result was due to resentment from locals over the replacement of Malcolm Turnbull and did not reflect on Mr Sharma’s suitability. Mr Morrison went on to say that the Liberal Party had “paid a big price” for the ousting of Malcolm Turnbull.
Labor candidate Tim Murray, while coming in third place with only 11% of first preference votes, expressed that he was just happy to have contributed to such a large swing against the Government.
Malcolm Turnbull’s son, Alex Turnbull, posted a video to social media during the lead up to the by-election urging Liberal voters not to vote for Mr Sharma so that they could send a message to Liberal leadership about the direction of the party. In the video, Mr Turnbull echoed his father’s sentiments that the Liberal Party had been overtaken by a heavily right wing element that was alienating more moderate members.