When Canadian-born Dave Sharma stood to give his candidate’s speech to Liberal Party faithful on Thursday night, he began with a little joke: he was definitely not a dual citizen, he declared, and waved the requisite paperwork to prove it.
After six rounds of voting, Mr Sharma was declared the Liberal’s candidate for Wentworth at the upcoming byelection, besting a field that included former Woollahra deputy mayor Katherine O’Regan, former Member for Wentworth Peter King and Woollahra councillor Richard Shields.
That was the easy part. On Friday, the campaign began in ernest with a press conference on Bronte Beach with the man who replaced the former member for Wentworth as Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.
Mr Sharma, it should be said, was not Mr Morrison’s preferred candidate to replace Malcolm Turnbull in the inner-Sydney seat; he wanted a woman in the role. But that was then and this is now.
“Dave was the best candidate last night, and as you’ll get to see, his record of service, his record of achievement, his high intellect and his ability to get the job done, I think, will serve the people of Wentworth extremely well,” Mr Morrison said.
Mr Sharma, whose father is of Indian heritage, said he doesn’t like the party’s traditional factional labels and people shouldn’t see him as either a “conservative” or a “moderate”.
“I stood as a candidate with my own values and beliefs and views … I don’t identify myself as anything other than a Liberal,” Mr Sharma said.
In a whirlwind interview between campaign events, Mr Sharma told AFR Weekend that security of the country, strength of the economy and keeping communities together were his key national priorities.
Mr Sharma also said be believed in man made climate change and that, “as part of any energy plan, renewables will need to play a part, as will other sources of energy [and] storage for renewables”.
Integrity and calibre
Mr Sharma began has career as a diplomat in Port Moresby before becoming a “trusted adviser” to foreign minister Alexander Downer. During the Gillard government, Mr Sharma headed the international division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and provided advice to the then Labor prime minister. Most recently, he served as Australia’s ambassador to Israel.
In a letter supporting his preselection, Mr Downer called Mr Sharma “a person of high integrity and calibre who can prosecute and carry an argument”.
“We need more people of his integrity, stature and ability representing the Liberal Party in federal Parliament,” Mr Downer said. Mr Sharma also had letters of support from David Gonski and federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Mr Sharma ticks all the boxes, but he will likely face criticism from some progressive quarters over his support of US President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“I support a two-state solution and I’m on the record for that,” Mr Sharma said. “But, I actually believe the US moving the embassy to Jerusalem, in concert with other measures, can advance a two-state solution and that’s why I wasn’t opposed to it.”