Bronwyn Bishop dumped as Liberal candidate for seat of Mackellar and her colourful career

Bronwyn Bishop's parliamentary career looks to be over, after the former House of Representatives speaker lost a preselection ballot in her Sydney seat of Mackellar.

Former Liberal staffer Jason Falinski defeated Ms Bishop 51 to 39 in a meeting lasting five-and-a-half hours on Saturday evening.

The result will still need to be formally endorsed by the Liberal Party executive.

Ms Bishop, who has held the seat on Sydney's northern beaches for 22 years, left the meeting with a group of supporters.

 

"It's been an honour to serve the people of Mackellar," she told reporters on her way out.

Before Saturday's ballot some party elders publicly criticised Ms Bishop's decision to recontest the seat, arguing it was time for the 73-year-old to retire and allow new blood into the ranks.

Mr Falinski said it was an honour to have been selected.

"I want to thank the Liberal Party for bestowing this honour on me," he said as he left the meeting.

"It is a privilege to be given their faith to represent the Liberal Party on the northern beaches. There's no other seat that I've ever wanted to represent in the federal parliament than Mackellar."

Mr Falinski also praised the outgoing MP for her "long service and dedication to the Liberal cause".

Mr Falinski, a moderate, and hard-right candidate Walter Villatora were widely seen as the biggest threats to Ms Bishop.

Mr Villatora was this week publicly endorsed by former prime minister Tony Abbott, who once described himself as the "political lovechild" of Ms Bishop and John Howard.

Bronwyn Bishop leaving the meetingBronwyn Bishop leaves the preselection meeting. (AAP: Sam Mooy)

'Choppergate' sparked Bishop's decline

Ms Bishop resigned as speaker of the House after she billed taxpayers $5,000 for a short helicopter charter flight between Melbourne and Geelong, prompting a review of politicians' entitlements.

At the time, Mr Abbott stood by Ms Bishop, but joined NSW Premier Mike Baird in writing a refererence for Mr Villatora in February.

Professor David Flint, who is a friend of Ms Bishop, told AM she had done a good job in parliament, but it might be time to move on.

"She was certainly a very vigorous and strong member of Parliament," he said.

"There is a time, of course, when we all have to move on from our positions.

"She will be regarded very highly within the community, notwithstanding a minor peccadillo."

Tony Abbott listens to Bronwyn Bishop in ParliamentTony Abbott says he is backing Walter Villatora over Bronwyn Bishop for pre-selection in Mackellar. (AAP: Alan Porritt)
 

The Senate

Even though much of the attention on Bronwyn Bishop has tracked her time in the green chamber, Canberra was first introduced to the Liberal establishment stalwart as a senator in 1987.

Senator Bishop quickly made a name for herself in estimates hearings, with tough and sustained questioning of the nation's top bureaucrats.

Those qualities elevated her to become one of the Liberals' most prominent parliamentarians.

But it was clear that she harboured ambitions for higher office, and was touted as a potential future leader of the parliamentary Liberal Party.

"There was once a time, I must say, when to say about a woman 'She's ambitious', that was a pejorative," Senator Bishop told the ABC's 7.30 in 1992.

"I don't believe it is anymore. Of course I had ambition.

"When you come to politics, you can't take from politics, you have to give to politics, you have to bring something to it, and the only way you can do that, in my view, is to stay very much in touch with the electorate, in touch with people."

Former Labor foreign minister Gareth Evans once stood up in the Senate and posed the question: "Why do you take an instant dislike to Senator Bishop?"

He then answered his own question: "To save time".

Ambition

Ms Bishop's switch to the House of Representatives saw her aspirations for an influential role in the frontbench realised and then dashed when she was drawn into a scandal over aged care.

"I want to be in a position where I can have a good deal of influence in the direction we take," she told the ABC in 1993, when she first raised her plans to make the switch.

And on whether she would ever make a tilt to become the first female Prime Minister of Australia, she replied that was "a long way down the track to even contemplate".

Senator Bishop resigned from the upper house in February 1994 to contest a by-election in the electorate of Mackellar on Sydney's northern beaches.

It was a hard-fought battle against outspoken journalist and author, the late Bob Ellis, but Ms Bishop won the seat.

The frontbench awaited, and when the Coalition swept to power under Liberal leader John Howard, Ms Bishop was made Minister for Defence Industry, Science and Personnel.

The Return

Bronwyn Bishop It was former PM Tony Abbott who handed Ms Bishop the role of Speaker. (AAP: Daniel Munoz)

More than a decade after leaving the ministry, Ms Bishop was hoping the return of the Coalition to government might also result in being given a portfolio.

But Tony Abbott, the man who once described himself as the "ideological love child" of Ms Bishop and former prime minister John Howard, offered her the position of speaker instead.

The now battle hardened Member of Mackellar relished the role, as a keen student of parliamentary rules and procedure.

However, Ms Bishop drew significant criticism from the Opposition, which claimed she was biased and targeted Labor MPs to be thrown out of the House for poor behaviour.

It was during this period that Ms Bishop was chastised for a decision to ban burqas in the public galleries of Parliament, citing a security risk.

The prime minister intervened, and the policy was withdrawn.

Bishop's Downfall

Bronwyn Bishop Bishop faced public scrutiny when she travelled to an event via helicopter. (AAP: Mick Tsikas)

Less than two years into her tenure as Speaker, Ms Bishop faced a challenge over why she charged taxpayers more than $5,000 to charter a helicopter between Melbourne and Geelong.

Ms Bishop had been travelling to a Liberal Party fundraiser.

She announced she would repay the cost of the chopper flight, but did not expressly apologise.

"One doesn't resign for an error of judgment when it's within the guidelines, and indeed it is," Ms Bishop said.

"I think the biggest apology one can make is to repay the money."

The then-prime minister Tony Abbott stood by her, describing it as "an error of judgment".

But after three weeks of criticism and ridicule, Ms Bishop stood down.

"I can say again this morning that I am so apologetic to the Australian people for letting them down," she said.

She has remained on the backbench, and announced she wanted to recontest the 2016 federal election.

She identified fighting terrorism as a key reason for her decision to stay on.

Source: ABC News

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