Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has returned to the spotlight after losing his position as leader back in August. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has returned to the spotlight after losing his position as leader back in August. Picture: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Turnbull cagey on Wentworth endorsement

Malcolm Turnbull has refused to comment on whether he would be endorsing Wentworth hopeful Dave Sharma in the Liberal candidate's second looming fight for the former prime minister's old seat next year.

The question was put to Mr Turnbull last night at the Wentworth Federal Electoral Conference community Christmas party in Rose Bay, where Mr Sharma had earlier told a crowd of 300 Liberal Party faithful that he was "fully committed" to winning the seat after losing to independent Kerryn Phelps in October.

Wentworth hopeful Dave Sharma arrives at the party. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Wentworth hopeful Dave Sharma arrives at the party. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Malcolm Turnbull and his daughter Daisy arriving at the Christmas party at Club Rose Bay. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Malcolm Turnbull and his daughter Daisy arriving at the Christmas party at Club Rose Bay. Picture: Dylan Robinson

"I would not like to answer that," Mr Turnbull told The Daily Telegraph.

Both men were special guests for last night's event in what was their first public appearance together.

It capped off a week in which the former PM­ wreaked havoc for his party, despite previously lashing interfering former leaders as "miserable ghosts".

Despite speculation about the relationship between the two given Mr Turnbull's hands-off approach to Mr Sharma's failed federal by-election bid in his old seat, the pair appeared on friendly terms. Mr Sharma arrived before Mr Turnbull, but was quick to make a beeline towards the former Wentworth MP when he spotted him.

Champagne in hand, the pair were then seen walking around the Club Rose Bay function room, greeting guests.

The invitation to the Wentworth FEC Christmas party.
The invitation to the Wentworth FEC Christmas party.

 

Mr Sharma addressed the crowd, admitting it had been a bad year for their party.

"I went on to lose the by-election, a seat we've held since Federation," he said.

"For that, all I can do is apologise and promise you I'll try harder at the next one. I'll be giving it my all … I'm fully committed to making sure we do win.

"I hope I can count on you for that."

While Mr Turnbull did not make a speech, he drew the annual Christmas raffle. Prizes included books by Gough Whitlam and Paul Keating, as well as a Phillip Ruddock anniversary mug.

Despite declining to comment on whether he would be endorsing Mr Sharma in March, Mr Turnbull posted a message of support for the embattled Liberal candidate on social media, tweeting: "Great to be with @DaveSharma & the amazing @mrsdztb at the Wentworth Christmas Party - good luck next year Dave!"

The tweet was accompanied by a selfie of himself, his daughter Daisy and Mr Sharma standing on the balcony of Club Rose Bay.

Mr Turnbull and Mr Sharma were the special guests at the fundraiser. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Mr Turnbull and Mr Sharma were the special guests at the fundraiser. Picture: Dylan Robinson

It can be revealed Mr Sharma's rival Dr Phelps asked Wentworth FEC organisers if she could attend the event but was told it would not be appropriate.

A senior Liberal source said there was a view Dr Phelps was trying to cosy up to the party - or use the Liberals­' local community connections - despite grandstanding against the government in parliament.

Last night's scheduled Christmas party appearance appears to be a sign Mr Turnbull will continue to inject­ himself into Liberal Party affairs in the lead-up to the next election in 2019.

This week, Mr Turnbull called on party moderates to defy Prime Minister Scott Morrison on preselections and also urged colleagues to revive the National Energy Guarantee.

One senior NSW Liberal said yesterday of Mr Turnbull: "Everyone in the Liberal Party, both moderate and conservative, are wondering what the heck he is up to."



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