You MP blames ‘almost visceral’ dislike of Morrison for defeat

Ousted Wentworth MP Dave Sharma says voters’ visceral dislike of former prime minister Scott Morrison was a major drag on the moderate vote.

Morrison had lost prestige and credit, Sharma says, and combined with frustrations at a nine-year-old government, fed an anti-government protest vote swell.

The former MP, booted from parliament by incoming independent Allegra Spender, thinks Morrison deserves more credit for steering the country through the pandemic. But he acknowledges “people just didn’t necessarily see it like that”.

“When you spoke to people, it was sort of non-empirical. It was almost visceral, their reaction. They would say, you know, that he is too religious,” Sharma told ABC RN Breakfast.

“They didn’t like that he carried coal into parliament one time that. They did not believe his sincerity on climate change. They didn’t like our handing of … Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations and Grace Tame’s comments.”

Sharma said he was not among the MPs who pushed for leadership change in September and believed it was unwise to change leaders midterm.

The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald reported then-treasurer Josh Frydenberg was urged last year to challenge Scott Morrison for the Liberal leadership.

“My own view at the time was – and I wasn’t asked about this, and I wasn’t part of the approach – but my view was we and the Labor Party had changed leaders often enough midterm to know that this didn’t usually end well,” Sharma said.

“My view was and remains that we should stick with the leader we’ve gotten, take them to the election and if the electorate pronounces a verdict as it has on this occasion, so be it.”

Sharma said voters didn’t think the Coalition was sincere about its commitment to cut emissions, despite the adoption of a 2050 net zero target.

“I could tell people till I was blue in the face about how much we reduce emissions by 2005, how much money we’re investing in renewable energy. But people just thought we weren’t serious about it because of our history on this issue.

“And because of the rhetoric that people in the Coalition continued to use on the issue, that suggested the whole thing was BS or a bit of a joke… the Nationals, Matt Canavan and others.”

Given the Liberals lost seats only to the left, Sharma didn’t see how lurching further right could remedy this. He said he didn’t know whether likely incoming Liberal leader Peter Dutton could win back seats such as Wentworth.

Sharma wanted to continue contributing to public life, whether that be in parliament or not, but wasn’t sure what form that would take.

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