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Pyne says his replacement should be "on merit"

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Outgoing South Australian Liberal MP Christopher Pyne says his replacement should be selected “entirely on merit”, brushing aside suggestions a woman should take the role.

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The defence minister announced his retirement on Saturday after 26 years as the member for Sturt.

Pyne would not weigh in on who should replace him, but said the candidate must know how to campaign, come from the area and have the potential to be a cabinet minister.

The Liberal Party has come under fire for failing to attract and keep female candidates, and will lose ministers Julie Bishop and Kelly O’Dwyer at the election.

But Pyne would not say whether the party should deliberately pre-select a woman in Sturt.

“The criteria is overlaid with the fact that it has to be based entirely on merit,” he said.

Pyne said while decision will be up to electors, Premier Steven Marshall’s chief of staff James Stevens “fits the criteria”.

Stevens is also federal electorate conference president for Sturt and has been Sturt campaign manager for the last four elections.

He is the early favourite to replace Pyne.

“James Stevens is a very fine individual,” the retiring Sturt MP said.

The Liberal Party state executive is expected to meet in the next week to determine a timeline to select Pyne’s replacement.

AAP

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