A looming federal byelection in the Gold Coast electorate of Fadden will test support for the Liberal Party after one year of Peter Dutton’s leadership, amid expectations the party will face another byelection in the former prime minister’s seat of Cook by the year’s end.
Former Morrison government minister Stuart Robert officially resigned from parliament on Thursday in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, setting in train the process for calling a byelection.
Robert announced his intention to leave federal parliament earlier this month, fuelling speculation that his close political ally Scott Morrison will also soon bow out of politics.
Some Liberals were anticipating Morrison would retire from his south Sydney seat of Cook as soon as the coming sitting fortnight.
But a source close to the former prime minister, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dismissed this prospect, saying his departure was “not imminent” and would possibly come at the end of the year.
“He is enjoying being the local member for Cook,” the source said, adding there was no chance of a double byelection Saturday for Fadden and Cook in the coming weeks.
It emerged earlier this month that the former prime minister was in the frame for a job that would see him work for a company in the UK defence sector, with some Liberals of the view he won’t quit politics until he has another job lined up.
“He’s not a Malcolm Turnbull. He doesn’t have that level of wealth. He’s still got a young family and wants to provide for them,” said one NSW Liberal, who spoke on background in order to speak freely.
Another senior Liberal MP said that as a former leader Morrison deserved “the space and respect to make up his mind on when and how to leave”.
Speaker Milton Dick’s office confirmed he had received Robert’s resignation and was “now considering possible dates for the byelection for the electoral division of Fadden, Queensland and will make an announcement in due course”.
There is no requirement for the byelection to occur within any prescribed period.
Both Fadden and Cook are considered safe Liberal seats, with margins of more than 10 per cent, making it unlikely there will be a repeat of the humiliating defeat suffered by the Liberals in the Victorian seat of Aston in April after Alan Tudge retired.
Byelections can serve as litmus tests for the government and opposition, but with the Liberals seeking to hold both seats any big swing away from the opposition could be damaging to Dutton.
Robert, who is Dutton’s shadow assistant treasurer, did not attend parliament last week despite it being budget week. However, his staff came to Canberra to pack up his Parliament House office.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who toured a space technology company in the Fadden electorate on Wednesday, blasted Robert for his failure to attend parliament when he had not formally resigned and was still being paid as an MP.
“If you’re a member of parliament, your basic duty – unless there’s a good reason why you’re not in parliament, with other duties or ill health – you have to turn up,” Albanese said on Wednesday.
The frontrunners for Robert’s seat include local councillor Cameron Caldwell and Fran Ward, who is active in the seat of Fadden and an ally of Robert. Former senator Amanda Stoker has ruled herself out and is weighing a tilt at state politics.
( Information from politico.com was used in this report. Also if you have any problem of this article or if you need to remove this articles, please email here and we will delete this immediately. [email protected] )