The parliamentary future of Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis is under a cloud today as local Liberals consider disendorsing her as candidate in the upcoming federal election.
Described as “very much a live option” by a senior local Liberal, the move comes in the wake of Mrs Sudmalis seconding a motion at a public meeting last week that condemned the Baird government’s proposal to merge Kiama and Shoalhaven councils.
The motion, moved by Vincentia High School teacher Bob Proudfoot and seconded by Mrs Sudmalis, read: ““This public rally condemns the Baird Government for its arrogant and ill-considered merger proposal, and directs Mr Baird to withdraw it forthwith. The rally also calls on local member, Shelley Hancock, and Mayor, Jo Gash, to show greater support for their communities’ desire to reject the amalgamation.”
On Friday, Mrs Sudmalis’s action was publicly condemned by South Coast MP and NSW Speaker Shelley Hancock, whose comments appear to have triggered a move to dump the federal MP.
“I’m sure that’s on the cards but I’m not prepared to make a comment until I have more information,” said Mrs Sudmalis on Monday morning.
Mrs Sudmalis was nominated unopposed as candidate but faces an acceptance vote some time in April. Barring two new branches in the southern end of the electorate that were absorbed into Gilmore after a redistribution, she has to win the majority of 33 delegates to the Federal Electoral Conference. At last count, she was six votes in front of any potential successor.
However, that support base appears to have been eroded. One senior local Liberal, who spoke to Fairfax Media on condition of anonymity, explained why.
“Ann’s seconding of that motion was extremely disappointing. At two recent meetings of the South Coast and Kiama State Electoral Conferences, [Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna] Gash said the local MPs were working as a team to oppose the council mergers. She said they might have disagreements in private but in public presented a united front,” the party source said.
“So for Ann to come out and second a motion condemning the Baird government and having a go at Shelley Hancock was just unacceptable”
The source said the motion issue capped off lingering disappointment with Mrs Sudmalis’s record as Gilmore MP.
“Comparisons are being made with Peter Hendy in Eden-Monaro. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars have been invested in Eden-Monaro but it is difficult to see what Ann Sudmalis has achieved in Gilmore,” the source said.
“There is no question Ann is hard working but many in the local party question how effective she has been.”
Another well-placed local party source said Mrs Sudmalis’s future had been the subject of intense discussion over the weekend.
“The phones have been ringing hot,” he said.
Should the move against Mrs Sudmalis succeed, she will suffer the same fate as Dennis Jensen, the Western Australian MP dumped by his own party over the weekend.