Preselection a critical test for the Coalition

The Coalition government has found itself in awkward position as doubts grow about the future of sitting Gilmore MP Ann Sudmalis. Facing criticism over the number of women in its parliamentary ranks in the wake of the dumping of Queensland MP Jane Prentice, it will lose even more paint if Mrs Sudmalis is tipped out in the preselection for her seat.

She may have garnered the support of both the Prime Minister and Treasurer but it is at the grassroots level where the MP’s future rests.

And it’s at the grassroots where dissatisfaction appears to most acute. 

Despite Mrs Sudmalis’ success in attracting federal funding towards the construction of the new bridge, support for her among local Liberal Party members appears to be eroding, if reports of dwindling membership and meeting attendance are to be believed.

The challenge to her preselection may or may not succeed. However, it does reveal a level of dissatisfaction among local party members with the perceived performance of Mrs Sudmalis. 

The success with the bridge funding may simply be a case of too little too late.

The preselection story has also brought into sharp focus deep divisions between Mrs Sudmalis and her state parliamentary counterpart, Kiama MP Gareth Ward.

While Mr Ward has remained relatively quiet on the preselection issue – apart from vigorously denying he has thrown his support behind challenger Grant Schultz – it has been no secret he has a problematic relationship with Mrs Sudmalis.

We understand it goes back to the preselection battle he had against Mrs Sudmalis in the state seat of Kiama ahead of the 2011 NSW election.

Mr Ward certainly has not been mute on the issue of federal infrastructure funding and has repeatedly called on Canberra to contribute more.

That pressure no doubt played a part in Canberra agreeing to part fund the Nowra bridge. 

No matter what your politics might be, it is in our interests that all levels of government can and do work together. 

Our community depends on state and federal governments collaborating to achieve positive outcomes. If the levels of government continually find themselves at loggerheads, we all suffer.

And the Coalition depends on a modicum of unity if it is to hold onto government at the next election.