After failing to win the well-heeled Sydney seat of Wentworth against Independent Kerryn Phelps in last year’s by-election – triggered by the resignation of dumped former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – Dave Sharma is in a good position to reclaim the Federation-era Liberal Party stronghold in the May 18 poll.
If he isn’t door-knocking around Australia’s wealthiest electorate, Dave Sharma is usually seen chatting to local commuters or having coffee with them in the district’s countless cafes.
Sharma’s street-level campaigning reflects not only his passion for the area, but the Coalition’s urgency of reclaiming the blue-ribbon seat of harbourside mansions, yacht clubs, surf-pounded beaches, and Bohemian enclaves.
“I want to be a good local representative for the Wentworth electorate. That means being accessible and a champion for their causes,” he said.
The father of three was born into an Indian heritage and lost his mother to breast cancer at the age of 12. This, he says, helped hone a focus on family, a belief in self-reliance, and a desire to help. Sharma has been instilled with the value of education from a young age.
Sharma spent his teenage years at Turramurra High School in Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs, graduating with the highest-possible Tertiary Entrance Rank of 100. He then went to England to study Arts and Law at the prestigious Cambridge University, northeast of London. He returned home, where he started a Medical degree at Sydney University before working for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He also completed a Masters in International Relations at Deakin University.
This election is unique for both the Liberal Party and Sharma. For the first time in several decades, the Liberal Party is coming from behind in an electorate which they, or earlier renditions of the party, have held since Federation. That said, Sharma is expected to reclaim Wentworth from Independent Kerryn Phelps, who campaigned hard in the by-election on red-button social issues such as climate change, asylum-seeker rights and respect for diversity. In a recent interview with Sky News, Sharma conceded that, more broadly, his party was the “underdog” in the May federal election, with a bruising battle ahead of them. Current polling has them about 6 percentage points behind the Labor Party on a two-party preferred basis.
“Last year, the people of Wentworth sent a clear message to the Government. I’ve been listening to you and will bring a fresh voice and progressive views to parliament,” he said in his campaign letter.
Ultimately, despite where the Liberals are in current polling, Sharma is at an advantage because of the lessons learnt in October’s by-election.
And we are off!
Spent first morning of campaign talking to voters at bus 🚌 stop in Double Bay.
They face a clear choice at this election about what sort of government they want in Canberra. pic.twitter.com/m3AHUehKaD
“We are more focused on the future now. We’ve put in place measures so that the Prime Minister can no longer be changed by a party rebuff so that if you vote for Scott Morrison for Prime Minister, he will be so for the entire term of office,” Sharma said.
He has acknowledged his shortcomings and tweaked his message to correlate better with the people of Wentworth. This was evident in his Sky News interview in which he acknowledged that the Liberal party needed to commit to action against climate change in order to be successful in the Federal election. However, Sharma believes the climate change battle is an international one, and that Australia shouldn’t be left with more than its share of responsibility.
“For Wentworth, this will be our third election in eight months. If people are tired of politics, I don’t blame them. However, this election matters,” Sharma said.
“Wentworth is an extremely political electorate and holds fundamental importance in the federal election. After several elections in such a short span of time, the Wentworth citizens would be looking for stability, and the Liberals have a strong track record to prove their ability to uphold their position.
“My family and I really love this community. I will fight to protect its natural beauty, improve local transport and back local workers, small businesses and volunteer.”
After his loss in the by-election, Sharma appealed to those losing faith in the Liberal party:
“I would say to those people: ‘get involved; help rebuild the party; select the candidates you want to see in parliament; get involved in the policy debates; don’t desert the party’,” he said.