Scott Morrison defends non-local Cook candidate Simon Kennedy following preselection win

Jessica WangNCA NewsWire
Not Supplied
Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

Former prime minister Scott Morrison has defended criticisms of his potential successor Simon Kennedy for not being a local, after the former McKinsey partner won the preselection for the southern Sydney seat of Cook.

Mr Kennedy, who does not currently live in the area but intends to move to Woolooware by the end of this week, won the ballot on Monday night, winning more than half the votes from 300 Liberal Party members.

The unsuccessful Liberal candidate for the northern Sydney seat of Bennelong at the 2022 election, will now contest the safe Liberal seat of Cook in the yet-to-be-announced by-election.

Appearing alongside Mr Kennedy on Tuesday morning, Mr Morrison – who grew up in Bronte in the eastern suburbs – said he himself had only moved into the electorate a year before becoming the local member.

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“What matters when you do this job is the skills and talents and abilities that you bring, and you need to appreciate what this place is all about,” he said.

“I know Simon will be able to work with (local groups), whether it’s the surf clubs or the many other sports clubs, and charitable groups that are right across our community, and be able to support them so they can deliver for our community.”

Scott Morrison and Simon Kennedy
Camera IconScott Morrison lent his support of Liberal Cook candidate Simon Kennedy, who was preselected on Monday night. Supplied Credit: Supplied

While Mr Morrison did not back a candidate in the lead up to preselection, he flagged Mr Kennedy’s potential to rise among party ranks, if elected.

“(The people of Cook) want a great local member … but they also want someone, who I think, can go on and play a significant role on behalf of our community in the national parliament and to go on and serve in government and in opposition at very senior levels,” he said.

The former prime minister also said it was not a missed opportunity NSW Liberals had not elected female preselection candidate and Veteran Family Advocate Commissioner Gwen Cherne.

Despite having the backing of former prime minister and Liberal elder John Howard, she secured just 35 of 296 votes on Monday.

“Down here in Southern Sydney we have 50/50 per cent representation,” he said, referring to federal Hume MP Jenny Ware.

“We have a good form of bringing good fields of candidates and I have no doubt that the other nominees last night will be able to continue to serve in some capacity.”

Gwen Cherne. Picture: Department of Veteran Affairs
Camera IconGwen Cherne secured 35 out of 296 votes on Monday night’s preselection battle for Cook. Department of Veteran Affairs Credit: Supplied

Mr Kennedy said while he had “listened” to the criticisms of him being an out-of-area candidate, he was more concerned of the cost-of-living challenges voiced by Cook constituents.

“I’m not worried about those criticisms, what I’m worried about is the cost-of-living crisis … and how every Aussies are going to make ends meet,” he said.

“That’s what I’m hearing from the people of Cook, that they want someone to stand up and fight for them on those issues.”

Flexing his local knowledge, Mr Kennedy – a self-confessed NRL fan – admitted that while he was a Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs supporter, “no one was happier in 2016 when (former Bulldogs players) Mick Ennis and Ben Barba came down to the Sharks”.

“I cheered them on the grand final and I have never been happier to see those two guys win it for the Sharks,” he said.

“They accepted Mick, I hope they’ll accept me too.”

While Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says the Labor party has yet to decide whether it will be contesting the by-election, 2022 Labor candidate for Cook, Simon Earle was critical of Mr Kennedy’s nomination.

“What is it with the local Libs and blow-ins?,” wrote on X, formerly Twitter on Monday night.

Sutherland Shire Labor councillor Jack Boyd also lashed the decision on social media.

“This is the third time the Liberals have brought someone from outside the area (Morrison - Bronte, Baird - North Sydney) to represent our community,” he wrote.

“No amount of cosplaying as a Sharks fan should make up for the fact that you have never lived in a community you seek to represent.”

Originally published as Scott Morrison defends non-local Cook candidate Simon Kennedy following preselection win

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