After 29 years in Parliament, Bronwyn Bishop has lost her preselection to Jason Falinski, following a Liberal Party ballot in her Mackellar electorate tonight.
Bishop faced three opponents, Jason Falinski, Walter Villatora and Bill Calcraft. Falinski was seen as the candidate of the moderate wing who control the NSW Division of the Liberal Party, whilst Villatora has connections to the right-wing and Tony Abbott.
There were three ballots. The first ballot results were: Bishop 37, Falinski 40, Villatora 12 and Calcraft 2. Falinski defeated Bishop 51-39. It appears that the hard right votes for Villatora ended up with Falinski, not Bishop.
UPDATE 17/04/16: Other reports suggest the first ballot results were: Bishop 39, Falinski 41, Villatora 9, Calcraft 2. Calcraft’s 2 votes went to Falinski and then 8 of Villatora’s 9 votes went to Falinski, with one vote informal.
There were 96 preselectors but it is reported that only 91 turned up for the preselection.
Bishop, 73, has been a member of parliament since 1987, first as a senator (1987-94) and then as a member of the House of Representatives (1994-2016). Today’s preselection means her 29-year parliamentary career will end in the next few months.
Bishop first won Mackellar at a by-election on March 26, 1994. Tony Abbott was elected in Warringah on the same day. Abbott appears to have supported Walter Villatora in today’s preselection. His relationship with Bishop fractured last year in the wake of the “Choppergate” scandal and Bishop’s support for Turnbull in the September leadership ballot. Abbott once jokingly described himself as the “love-child of John Howard and Bronwyn Bishop”.
Bishop first came to public prominence because of her aggressive questioning of public servants in Senate Estimates hearings in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
When John Howard became prime minister in 1996, she was made Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel. Following the 1998 election, she became Minister for Aged Care. Her handling of scandals involving the treatment of elderly people in nursing homes led to Howard dropping her from the ministry after the 2001 election.
Even though she was a shadow Cabinet minister, Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered Bishop the job of Speaker of the House of Representatives after the 2013 election. She was frequently accused of bias in the position, especially over her aggressive treatment of the opposition. She had few supporters when the story broke about her use of a chartered helicopter from Melbourne to Geelong in 2014. Abbott eventually withdrew his support for her after the “Choppergate” affair had dominated the news for several weeks.
Prior to entering parliament, Bishop was a solicitor and company director. Her political career began in the Balmoral Branch of the Liberal Party in 1973. She was NSW Liberal Party President between 1985-87.
Mackellar is a safe Liberal Party electorate. Bishop is just the third person to hold the seat since its creation in 1949. She followed William C. Wentworth (1949-77) and Jim Carlton (1977-94). Named after the poet and novelist Dorothea Mackellar, the electorate includes areas such as Frenchs Forest, Mona Vale, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase, Palm Beach, Beacon Hill, Belrose and Dee Why.
At the 2013 election, Bishop won 62.43% of the primary vote and 66.84% of the two-party-preferred vote.
Before and After
The first picture shows Bronwyn Bishop arriving for today’s preselection. The second shows her leaving after her defeat. Both images were posted on Twitter.