Up against an internal Liberal smear campaign and a four-page homophobic scandal sheet, former Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson has won pre-selection for the safe Melbourne seat of Goldstein.
Wilson left his $400,000 a year job on the Human Rights Commission to make a run for this seat which became available after the retiring of outgoing trade minister Andrew Robb.
An openly gay candidate, Mr Wilson launched the controversial Safe Schools Coalition during his time as human rights commissioner, an anti-bullying campaign designed to raise support for and reducing prejudice against LGBTI students.
In the days leading up to the vote, a four-page scandal sheet was posted to party members in the seat.
Senior Liberals described the sheet as “grubby and homophobic”, and launched an investigation into its origins.
Mr Wilson was described in the pamphlet as “neither conservative or liberal”, a “proud supporter of the Safe Schools Coalition” and was criticised for his “unrelenting campaign for gay rights issues”.
The pamphlet also attacked Mr Wilson’s education and political experience. But the scandal sheet coalesced support behind Mr Wilson.
After winning pre-selection by only 2 votes, Mr Wilson suggested the smears may have helped him win.
“In the end, what this incident proves is that substance and policy and steering the future direction of the country is more important to Liberal Party values, not smears,” Mr. Wilson said after his victory.
“I have never been so humbled in my life,” Mr Wilson said after winning the candidacy.
“To carry the trust, and to represent the values of the people of Goldstein, is very humbling.”
The Goldstein pre-selection contest helps prepare the decks for an early election that is expected to be called by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in early May.