Jane Prentice loses her preselection for the seat of Ryan. Picture: Annette Dew
Jane Prentice loses her preselection for the seat of Ryan. Picture: Annette Dew

It was brutal but it was her own fault

ON Saturday, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice lost her preselection to a much younger Julian Simmonds.

Before you howl about the lack of women in the Liberal Party, here's some insight that interstate commentators and politicians do not know.

Muckruckers, the mouths from the south and the ill-informed will want to make this about old men in the Liberal Party trying to keep women out of the party.

What happened to Prentice was humiliating. And it is hard not to feel sorry for her.

This is brutal - but it is her own fault and it was foreseeable.

Prentice holds the seat for Ryan. Because she lost her preselection on Saturday that means she will remain in the seat up until election day but will not contest it at the poll.

She was elected in 2010 and had a loose type of Kirribilli-type of agreement with Simmonds, one of her former staff members who is now a Brisbane City councillor.

Privately, she said she only planned to do a couple of terms. If Prentice ran again this would be her fourth term.

Julian Simmonds will stand for Ryan.
Julian Simmonds will stand for Ryan.

Prentice worked well in Canberra. She worked hard on her portfolio and was generally liked across the aisle.

So what went wrong?

Prentice failed to understand that before you ask punters to vote you in on polling day, you first need support from your branch members. If she had worked her branch members and not taken them for granted, she may have survived. She also may have been able to sandbag herself if she was much higher up in rank than a junior minister.

There are many examples of Prentice of treating branch members with a touch of apathy. She used her husband Ian Prentice as a proxy too many times - branch members thought they had a meeting with the politician only to turn up to get a sit-down with her husband.

She would fail to turn up for events that people were expecting to see her at.

She was often more interested in being in Canberra than working her electorate.

For Liberal National Party members in Ryan, this was unacceptable.

And she had been warned before by party elders. She was told to connect better with her electorate or think about her future.

And just to underscore how she just did not get it, the internal campaigns of Prentice and Simmonds were poles apart.

Simmonds bombarded grassroots members with love, showing them a candidate who had energy - and a potential senior minister down the track.

Prentice's campaign reinforced her problem. She sent an email with "independent endorsements" from people. The local butcher, teacher or mum, you would think, but no.

They were from former prime minister John Howard, business tsar Sarina Russo, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and a letter from Queensland's most senior Turnbull Government Minister Peter Dutton (with a picture of them with their arms around each other).

Dated May 8, Mr Dutton wrote, "Jane is a good friend, a valued colleague and importantly my political next door neighbour.

"Jane has a deserved reputation for delivering and advocating for local residents. Jane has taken that commitment to her ministerial role in supervising the National Disability Insurance Scheme. She is absolutely on top of her portfolio and quite frankly, we need your support because we cannot afford to lose her hard work, drive and mastery of this difficult portfolio.

"I'm sure you are aware of Jane's political record. Where she has improved her vote - on a two-party preferred basis - at every election she has contested at both council and federal election."

She thought it clever to get endorsements from high-profile Australians (and note there are men trying to sandbag her). Simmonds knew it was better to show connections with people who actually lived in the electorate.

Is it any wonder that she lost the vote 256-102? That is two to one.

Unfortunately, Prentice's loss could now make it harder for Queenslanders to get promoted in the ministry.

Last year, LNP president Gary Spence had a go at Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull about the lack of Queensland ministers in his ministry. Next time there's a hissy fit by a Queenslander, the PM can rightly point out that he promotes a Queenslander only for the Queenslander to lose preselection.

It is unfortunate that Prentice is bowing out this way. But the process truly shows a democratic process: that the best person gets the job, where they're male or female. On the face of it, though, it does feed a perception that the LNP does not preselect enough women. Politics is about reality and perception. The LNP should get its house in order for the next election and convince some quality female candidates to put their hand up to run.

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