Teresa Gambaro has announced she won’t recontest the seat of Brisbane at the next federal election. Photo: Andrew Meares National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans is the early favourite to win LNP preselection for Brisbane. Photo: Supplied
While former premier Campbell Newman was considered an unlikely starter for LNP preselection in Brisbane, former state MP Robert Cavallucci (right) was considering his options. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Senior Liberal National Party figures have slammed Brisbane MP Teresa Gambaro’s decision to quit politics at the next election, calling it a “dummy spit” that will hand the seat to Labor.
But Ms Gambaro’s office rejected that assertion, referring Fairfax Media to a statement she issued on Wednesday that stated she was leaving politics to spend more time with her family.
A spokesman for Ms Gambaro said that was all she would say on the matter.
Ms Gambaro, who held Brisbane with a margin of just 3.15 per cent, had faced a spirited Labor campaign spearheaded by its army major candidate, Pat O’Neill, prior to her retirement announcement on Wednesday.
One LNP source said Ms Gambaro, who had 15 years of parliamentary experience, was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on a promotion in two successive front bench reshuffles.
“She went into meltdown last year when she didn’t get a promotion and it happened again this year (when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed his new ministry),” the source said.
“The timing of this is appalling.
“Brisbane was not in play before this, but now she’s all but handing it to Labor.
“She’s f—ed the party, crucified the party, because there’s no time for a new candidate to get the name recognition.”
Another LNP source described Ms Gambaro’s decision as a “massive dummy spit”.
“Teresa was telling everyone in the party how she had the name recognition and was the only person who could win Brisbane,” the source said.
“This is just self-interest of the highest order.
“We’ve got nobody palatable with name recognition to win the seat.
“Campbell Newman has the name recognition, but he’s not palatable.”
Comment was sought from Mr Newman, but the former Queensland premier was considered by party sources to be an unlikely candidate, given his stated enjoyment of post-political life.
In her statement, Ms Gambaro said: “The time has come to be available to my family and to pursue other opportunities.”
Mr O’Neill, the Labor candidate, said Ms Gambaro’s decision to bow out of the campaign would not affect his campaign.
“This has never been a fight against Teresa Gambaro, it’s been a fight against what we see as an increasingly out-of-touch LNP government whose values aren’t shared by the people of Brisbane,” he said.
“…I’ve always got along well with Teresa and I wish her well in whatever she does next, her and her family.
“She’s always been nice to me and my mum, when my mum was principal at New Farm State School, but no, this doesn’t change the campaign.”
The attention will now turn to who will replace Ms Gambaro on the ballot paper for the LNP.
National Retail Association chief executive Trevor Evans was understood to be the frontrunner for preselection.
Mr Evans had launched a preselection challenge against Ms Gambaro last year, but was eventually persuaded to abandon his bid.
It was understood then-prime minister Tony Abbott’s office was instrumental in persuading Mr Evans not to challenge.
One of the LNP sources said they felt “sorry” for Mr Evans, because even though he would be a “very good candidate”, time was running out for him to gain name recognition in the electorate.
Mr Evans did not return Fairfax Media’s calls on Wednesday.
Former Brisbane Central MP Robert Cavallucci, who lost his state seat at last year’s state election, was another possible contender.
When asked whether he would seek LNP preselection, Mr Cavallucci said he was “not ruling it out at this stage”, but was yet to discuss the matter with his family.
Mr Cavallucci was the first non-Labor candidate to win Brisbane Central – which was held by former premier Peter Beattie between 1989 and 2006 – since the electorate was established in 1977.
Fairfax Media understands former Young LNP president Luke Barnes, Ms Gambaro’s chief-of-staff, has made several calls to party members to sound them out about running.
“Luke’s a political animal, but I don’t think he’ll get the support,” one of the sources said.
Another source, however, said they expected Ms Gambaro to support Mr Barnes should he run.
Comment has been sought from Mr Barnes.
Mr Barnes was central to one of the most colourful moments of the 2015 state election campaign, when he called the police in the lead-up to Iain Fogerty’s arrest.
Mr Fogerty, whose public nuisance charge was thrown out of court, had been standing next to LNP campaigners wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.
Former state local government minister David Crisafulli, who has moved to south-east Queensland since he lost his north Queensland seat last year, ruled himself out.
“You will never see my name on a federal ballot paper,” he said.
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