Malcolm Turnbull will have to fight for preselection if he switches to state politics, with NSW Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell insisting he won’t be parachuted into a safe Liberal seat.
The sitting Vaucluse MP, Peter Debnam, has said he won’t contest the March 2011 state election, fanning speculation the recently deposed federal opposition leader may switch to state politics in a bid to become premier.
The former merchant banker’s federal seat of Wentworth overlaps Vaucluse in Sydney’s east.
Some Liberal supporters are reportedly unhappy about Mr O’Farrell’s leadership performance and are trying to draft Mr Turnbull into the NSW Liberal’s top job.
A recent Galaxy poll raised questions about Mr O’Farrell’s leadership, finding new Premier Kristina Keneally was more popular despite overwhelming support for the coalition.
Mr O’Farrell laughed off suggestions Mr Turnbull’s gunning for his job, saying he couldn’t enter parliament until the 2011 election – making any pre-election coup impossible.
‘Quality candidates welcome’
He said he’d welcome any quality candidate wanting to contest the next poll but anyone interested in Vaucluse would have to fight for preselection.
“Unlike the Labor Party, we don’t parachute candidates in there.
It is a democratic preselection process,” he told reporters on Friday.
“They’re decisions for him (Malcolm Turnbull), and of course, there are federal political implications as well.
“The sitting member for Vaucluse has said there will be a veritable cast of thousands running in his seat, and that is a good thing,” Mr O’Farrell said.
“We have competitive, democratic preselections, and long may they last.”
Liberal leadership rumours
Mr Turnbull has stepped away from the media spotlight since losing the federal Liberal leadership to Tony Abbott in December, taking time out to consider his political future.
He has so far refused to comment on the latest rumours.
Ms Keneally would not buy into the leadership speculation, saying Mr Turnbull’s switch to state politics was a matter for the Liberal Party.
“I think that everyone is aware that Mr Turnbull is a man of overarching ambition,” she said.
“The leadership of the Liberal Party is a matter for the Liberal Party.”
Asked whether the coalition was panicking in the wake of Mr O’Farrell’s poor poll results, Ms Keneally replied: “You’d have to ask the Liberal Party that question”.