Maria Kovacic, former state president of the Liberal Party, has won the preselection for the party’s vacancy in the Senate, beating former NSW treasurer and transport minister Andrew Constance with a vote of 287-243. The preselection was held to replace the late senator Jim Molan, who passed away in January at the age of 72 after battling prostate cancer. About 700 Liberal Party members attended the event at the Fullerton Hotel in Sydney. Kovacic resigned as the NSW Liberal president last month to nominate for the Senate spot. She is a member of the Moderate faction and was able to cobble together large sections of support among the Moderate and Centre-Right factions.
In her speech to party members, Kovacic spoke about her Croatian heritage and how her parents fled communism in Europe. She also talked up the importance of childcare, home ownership and economic management. Kovacic has run a financial services business in western Sydney and co-founded Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Executive Women.
Federal Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley said Kovacic was a “formidable woman and a fitting replacement for the late, great Major-General Jim Molan”. Ley said one of her key priorities as deputy leader was getting more women elected as quickly as possible.
The result has been interpreted as a changing of the guard in the Moderates, with Constance failing to get enough votes despite receiving the endorsement of former premier Gladys Berejiklian and the support of former foreign minister Marise Payne and her partner Stuart Ayres. Kovacic, on the other hand, was backed by Liberal senator Andrew Bragg and the unofficial new Liberal women’s wing, Hilma’s Network.
The Right’s only candidate, Jess Collins, demonstrated significant support after receiving just over 100 votes. The three other candidates all received fewer votes.