Liberals face fight to hold Turnbull’s seat

The Morrison government faces a battle to retain the prized Sydney seat of Wentworth – and its slim majority in parliament – with a new poll showing the Liberal vote has plummeted after a right-wing attack on incumbent MP Malcolm Turnbull.

Malcolm Turnbull is quitting parliament on Friday. Photo: AP/Andrew Taylor

Malcolm Turnbull is quitting parliament on Friday. Photo: AP/Andrew Taylor

The ReachTel poll shows the Liberal Party and Labor pegged at 50 per cent each on a two-party preferred basis, in a clear sign Wentworth voters are planning to punish the Liberals for dumping the former prime minister. However, the poll includes two independents – one of whom says he won’t run, while the other hasn’t announced her intentions.

In the 2016 federal election, the two-party vote was 67.8 per cent in Turnbull’s favour.

Turnbull will resign as an MP on Friday after representing the seat for 14 years, ahead of a byelection expected in early October.

Senior Labor MP Richard Marles said Wentworth was one of the country’s safest seats and the outcome of the byelection would reflect on new Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“Anything other than a strong Liberal win in the Wentworth by-election is going to represent an initial rejection by the Australian people to the idea of Scott being the prime minister,” he told Sky News.

The poll of 886 people commissioned by left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute also found Turnbull’s constituents valued renewable energy reform more than the Liberal Party.

A majority think Australia should move to 100 per cent renewable energy within five to 10 years and also believe the National Energy Guarantee should include an emissions reduction target, according to the poll.

They also think new Morrison will do less to tackle climate change than his predecessor.

Half of the voters said Morrison’s 2017 parliamentary question time coal stunt made them less likely to vote Liberal at the next election.

The Liberals’ primary vote has slumped to 39.6 per cent, from 62.3 per cent in 2016.

And Labor’s primary vote has soared to 29.9 per cent, from 17.7 per cent when the federal election was held.

Wentworth respondents were also asked about their support for Liberal preselection frontrunner Dave Sharma.

The former ambassador to Israel garnered 34.6 per cent support, against 20.3 per cent for Labor’s Tim Murray.

The next highest responses were for Independent Kerryn Phelps and NSW state Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who were both on about 11 per cent.

Phelps, a Sydney City councillor, has not said if she plans to run or not.

Greenwich has already ruled himself out.

Sharma is looking at a preselection face-off against Business Council of Australia executive director Andrew Bragg, who resigned his post this week.

He’s likely to also come up against former prime minister Tony Abbott’s sister Christine Forster, the Sydney City councillor who also wants to run for the Liberals.

– with AAP

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