KERRYN Phelps did the rounds on TV this morning, soaking up the aftermath of her victory in the Wentworth by-election.
This was before her margin over Liberal candidate Dave Sharma suddenly tightened to less than a thousand votes.
Dr Phelps told the ABC’s Insiders program a “sequence of events” had sealed the government’s fate in Wentworth.
“There was a sequence of events that happened that people just became utterly exasperated with the Liberal Party,” Dr Phelps said.
“They seemed to be only interested in their own self-interest. They only seem to want to talk about their leadership challenges and their factional battles and it’s like, ‘Hang on a second, we’re out here, we are the Australian people, we want you to focus on our issues.”
She said the government’s refusal to release its report into religious freedom, and the subsequent suggestion that gay children could be thrown out of their schools, was the first great blow to Mr Sharma’s campaign.
The other killer issue was the government’s apparently accidental support for Pauline Hanson’s ‘It’s OK to be white’ motion in the Senate.
Ms Phelps mocked its explanation for the screw-up.
“The next excuse was, ‘Oops, we didn’t mean to, we didn’t actually read the motion.’ That’s shambolic government, that is poor governance and people were saying, ‘How can you possibly explain that? How can you call yourself a responsible government and do that sort of thing?’”
In the lead-up to the by-election, Mr Sharma and Scott Morrison argued Dr Phelps would destabilise the parliament and might even bring down the government.
She told Insiders she believed “all governments should go full term unless there are exceptional circumstances,” and she would not vote rashly for a motion of no confidence.
“We saw that kind of recklessness last week with people voting on motions that they hadn’t read and didn’t understand, and that’s not how I operate. I need to have evidence. I need to see a full brief. I need to know what I’m voting on,” Dr Phelps said.
She admitted she had been “torn” about running for the seat and always thought her candidacy was a “longshot”.
“It was the furthest thing from my mind until Malcolm Turbull was dumped, and then everywhere I went in the streets in the eastern suburbs, somebody would come up to me and say, ‘Would you please have a run in Wentworth?’” she said.
“Jackie and I had to sit down and as a family we had to talk about what that would mean, what the implications would be to our lives, and the fact that I would have to be spending so much time in Canberra.
“I wasn’t prepared to actually make the decision and announce I would do it until we knew we could do it properly.”
She certainly did do it properly.
Dr Phelps was greeted by a roar of jubilation as she arrived at her victory party at North Bondi Surf Life Savers club last night, and the noise didn’t die down for five minutes.
She took her time moving to the front of the room, stopping to hug and high five supporters. At several points she even broke out dancing, and an impromptu moshpit promptly formed around her.
The booming lyrics of the Macklemore song Glorious — “I feel glorious, glorious,” — perfectly summed up the mood.
— Sam Clench (@SamClench)
There were howls of laughter as she started her speech with a verbal slip, thanking “the people of Warringah — Wentworth!”
Warringah, of course, is Tony Abbott’s seat.
Cheers and the occasional spontaneous outbreak of the chant “Kerryn, Kerryn!” greeted virtually every sentence she spoke.
“I am humbled by this privilege and I just want to say thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said, before descending back into the crowd.
The mood shifted shortly afterwards as a group of Dr Phelps’ supporters watched Prime Minister Scott Morrison take the stage at the Liberal Party’s function.
Mr Morrison’s defiant speech drew frequent heckles from the rowdier attendees.
“There will be tough days and there will be good days,” Mr Morrison said.
“It’ll be a great day when we kick you out!” one supporter shouted back at the TV.
Beaten Liberal candidate Dave Sharma got a more respectful reception, perhaps because his speech was notably magnanimous — not only towards Dr Phelps, but towards the old member of Wentworth, Malcolm Turnbull.