- Editorial: ‘I didn’t mean to’ excuse is not good enough
Ann Sudmalis’ days as federal member for Gilmore could be numbered after the Liberal MP signed a petition stating she would vote against her own party at the next state election.
The petition, which Mrs Sudmalis signed at a public meeting in Nowra on March 10, called on the Baird government to abandon plans to merge Kiama and Shoalhaven councils.
The document also stated an intention to vote against state Liberal MPs Shelley Hancock (South Coast) and Gareth Ward (Kiama), along with the government, at the next election. Mrs Sudmalis’ signature appears about 5cm below that sentence.
The move has infuriated Illawarra and South Coast Liberal Party members.
“She’s just signed her own death warrant,” a Liberal source said. “To sign a petition saying you will not vote for your Liberal colleagues is just extraordinary.
“Here we’ve got a federal member of Parliament who votes for things she doesn’t understand and signs things she hasn’t read; that’s pretty damning.
“This is just another nail in the coffin for a member who many are scratching their heads as to why she even bothered joining the Liberal Party.”
Mrs Sudmalis told Fairfax Media she had no idea she was signing a petition, thinking instead it was an attendance register.
“I would never have signed something like that and placed myself in such a position,” she said.
Mr Ward was “taken aback” by Mrs Sudmalis’ claim. He said she had left a voicemail “categorically denying that she’d ever signed such a petition” on Monday night.
“As a state member whose councils are affected by this proposal, it’ll be me that will turn this around. I’d encourage my federal colleagues to stick to federal issues,” he said.
Mrs Sudmalis’ version of events was also at odds with that of Robyn Watson, who was on the desk at the meeting.
“We told everyone who came in that they were signing a petition not an attendance record. When we told Ann she said, ‘I know what it is’,” Mrs Watson said.
“I remember turning to the person next me and saying, ‘Shit, she signed it’.”
Mrs Sudmalis said: “Robyn can say what she likes. I had no idea it was a petition”.
Organiser of the public meeting, Cr Greg Watson declined to provide a copy of petition, which Fairfax Media obtained from another source.
Mrs Sudmalis has since written to NSW Premier Mike Baird explaining why her signature appears on the document and has asked for her name to be “formally removed” from the petition.
The Gilmore MP angered Liberal counterparts recently when she seconded a motion condemning the Baird government over its merger proposals.
Asked if the petition signature would be used as ammunition to oust Mrs Sudmalis, Mr Ward said: “Matters for endorsement are matters for the Liberal Party and I’ll leave that up to the selectors”.
The petition read as follows:
STOP THE FORCED MERGER OF SHOALHAVEN CITY COUNCIL WITH KIAMA MUNICIPAL COUNCIL
We, the undersigned, call on the Member for South Coast, the Honourable Shelley Hancock, the Member for Kiama, Gareth Ward MP and the Premier of NSW, Mike Baird, to make the NSW Government abandon the proposed amalgamation of Shoalhaven City Council and Kiama Municipal Council, or hold a referendum of the residents from both Local Government areas, and this referendum be binding on the NSW Government.
If our wishes are not complied with we place you on notice of our intention to vote against the Honourable Shelley Hancock MP & Gareth Ward MP, as well as the Government in the Upper House at the next State Election.