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"Chaos and division": Dumped Lib takes aim as Nats prepare for Gilmore charge

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The Liberal dumped as a candidate in favour of an ex-Labor president is warning his former party that deals behind closed doors won’t save them at the next federal election.

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The contest for the marginal NSW seat of Gilmore is now looking crowded, with the Nationals likely to run a candidate, along with Labor, the Liberals and ex-Liberal Grant Schultz, who will now run as an independent.

Schultz, the local real estate agent, was axed as the Liberal candidate yesterday when the NSW state executive decided to replace him with former Labor national president Warren Mundine.

“You need to turn your attention to your electorates. Gender will not win an electorate, deals behind closed doors will not win an election,” Schultz told Sky News today.

“If they want to win this election they need to engage with their community, they need to listen to their community and they need to represent their community.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison wants Mundine to run in the seat, which is held by retiring Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis.

“I’ve never met the man (Mundine). I’m sure he’s a great bloke. I don’t know what interest he has in Gilmore, or if he’s ever been here – I’ve never seen him,” Mr Schultz said.

“I just hope he hasn’t been taken as a patsy.”

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said he’d spoken to former NSW Nationals minister Katrina Hodgkinson about running, describing her as a fierce fighter.

“She’s somebody who understands what it takes to win a three-cornered contest. She also understands what it’s like to be a cabinet minister,” he told reporters in regional NSW.

Schultz says he was suspicious for months that something wasn’t right with his endorsement.

He was chosen by the local party branch in December as a candidate but claims an opinion poll mentioning Mundine was distributed through the electorate prior to that.

“That really confirms the suspicions we had already that something was going on due to the length of time taken to actually endorse me,” Schultz told the ABC today.

The son of Liberal Party stalwart Alby Schultz, a long-serving Member for Hume, says others have cancelled their party memberships after being “let down and betrayed” but he had not asked them to do so.

Mundine, who as of Tuesday was not a paid-up Liberal Party member and did not meet the criteria of six months as a member before becoming a candidate, was the ALP’s national president from 2006 to 2007.

He quit Labor in 2012.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne claimed it a “great achievement” that Mundine wants to join the Liberal Party.

“He has very strong connections and I think in the Gilmore community he’ll be a champion for those people and the indigenous people of the community as well,” she told ABC Radio’s AM today.

“I live in a part of Sydney, in western Sydney, where we are always facing significant challenges to win and retain seats, so we don’t take anything for granted.”

But Labor leader Bill Shorten argued Sudmalis’ departure from Gilmore was evidence of Coalition problems.

“She has had to put up her hand and say she can’t continue because of the bullying within the Liberal Party. Now we see chaos and division,” he told reporters.

– AAP

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