Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today move to install former Labor Party president Warren Mundine as the Liberal candidate in the knife-edge seat of Gilmore, ousting the man who had already been preselected by local members.
The NSW Liberal Party state executive was issued with a "very urgent" electronic ballot to consider the Gilmore preselection on Tuesday morning, the first in a series of votes expected to parachute Mr Mundine on to the ballot paper.
Five senior Liberal sources confirmed the state executive would sign off on the endorsement on Tuesday and it would be announced by Mr Morrison and Mr Mundine in the electorate on Wednesday morning.
Liberals in Gilmore, on the South Coast, had already chosen real estate agent Grant Schultz to contest the marginal seat, replacing the sitting member Ann Sudmalis, who is leaving politics.
But Mr Morrison and key party officials believed Mr Mundine was a better candidate to retain the seat.
I am very pleased that Warren Mundine has joined our new team of candidates and wants to be part of a government that will keep our economy strong and focus on the things that matter to everyday Australians, Mr Morrison said.
Warren has demonstrated his leadership ability over many decades, including the role he has played in reforming our welfare system, and has a deep understanding of what matters to Australian families and the pressures they face.
He has strong values on the importance of family and working hard, on respecting each other, and has demonstrated a real no excuses policy when it comes to getting things done.
Im proud to have him part of our team in Gilmore; a part of the world I know very well.
Warren has deep connections with the Gilmore community and will be a highly-effective champion for them and their families. He will play a very significant role within our team and the direction we take in the future.
Polling undertaken by the Liberals last year "came back really good" for Mr Mundine, a very senior Liberal said on Tuesday.
"While he's an outsider to the Liberal Party, thats his strength," the source said.
Mr Mundine is not yet a member of the Liberal Party but his application was being processed on Tuesday. The Indigenous leader and businessman currently lives in Sydneys North Shore, but has ancestral ties to the Shoalhaven area, and many members of his family reside in Gilmore.
However, some local Liberals will baulk at the imposition of an outsider candidate. "I doubt he's even seen the Princes Highway in the last 10 years," one local Liberal said.
Mr Mundine was the ALP national president in 2006-07, and later expressed interest in becoming a Labor senator, but was bested by former NSW premier Bob Carr. He left the Labor Party in 2012 after 20 years, saying it was "no longer the party I joined".
The deal to insert Mr Mundine as the candidate was spearheaded by Mr Morrison's centre-right faction but has been agreed to by the dominant moderate faction.
The Liberals hold the seat of Gilmore by just 0.7 per cent and it was widely expected to fall to Labor unless Mr Mundine can salvage the party's fortunes.
More to come