Ker­ryn Phelps’ de­ci­sion to run as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date in the up­com­ing Went­worth by-elec­tion has been de­scribed by La­bor as a “gift”.

“We were hop­ing to put a dent in Went­worth but we have no chance of win­ning it,” one se­nior La­bor source said yes­ter­day.

“But this will tie the Libs up in knots for weeks, spend­ing money and re­sources over a seat they shouldn’t even have to worry about. There’s no ques­tion that she (Phelps) is a gift for us.”

Pro­fes­sor Phelps, the for­mer pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, has been a trail­blaz­ing ad­vo­cate on ev­ery­thing from med­i­cal re­form to same-sex mar­riage over the past three decades.

But at the age of 60, and with an Or­der of Aus­tralia un­der her belt, Pro­fes­sor Phelps says it’s the pro­found fail­ure of the na­tion’s two ma­jor par­ties on crit­i­cal is­sues such as cli­mate change and health­care that fi­nally com­pelled her to throw her hat in the ring.

“I think that Aus­tralians are look­ing for a vi­sion that re­flects who we are as a peo­ple,” Pro­fes­sor Phelps said. “Things like our treat­ment of asy­lum-seek­ers, which I think is a blight on the Aus­tralian char­ac­ter. I think that our in­ac­tion on cli­mate change is an em­bar­rass­ment. I think that our health pol­icy is un­der threat.”

Pro­fes­sor Phelps said she would be re­ly­ing en­tirely on crowd­fund­ing and vol­un­teers to bankroll her cam­paign, in con­trast to Dave Sharma who, just days af­ter be­ing pre­s­e­lected as the Lib­eral Party can­di­date, al­ready has some of Syd­ney’s wealth­i­est busi­ness lead­ers and the Jewish com­mu­nity lin­ing up to throw money at his cam­paign.

Pro­fes­sor Phelps said while she had yet to de­cide on pref­er­ence deals, she would urge vot­ers to put her first and the Lib­eral Party last.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant you send that mes­sage that they know that Can­berra needs to be a voice for the peo­ple,” she said.

La­bor pref­er­ences will be crit­i­cal to Pro­fes­sor Phelps, who will need to get at least 25 per cent of the pri­mary vote to get over the line.

She has also man­aged to con­vince the ALP po­lit­i­cal vet­eran Dar­rin Bar­nett to head her cam­paign team. Mr Bar­nett’s last high­pro­file job was work­ing as an ad­viser to Ju­lia Gil­lard in the prime min­is­ter’s of­fice and his ap­point­ment yes­ter­day fu­elled

spec­u­la­tion that La­bor was ac­tively back­ing Pro­fes­sor Phelps’s cam­paign.

The al­le­ga­tion was strongly de­nied by Pro­fes­sor Phelps and the La­bor can­di­date for Went­worth, Tim Mur­ray. One se­nior La­bor source said he was con­fi­dent Mr Bar­nett would have sought “spe­cial dis­pen­sa­tion” from ALP HQ be­fore ac­cept­ing the job, but as a free­lancer Mr Bar­nett was free to work with any client he chose.

Pro­fes­sor Phelps has run a med­i­cal prac­tice in the heart of Syd­ney’s Dou­ble Bay, one of Went­worth’s most af­flu­ent sub­urbs, for two decades. She also lives in the area with her wife, Jackie Strick­ner-Phelps.

Pro­fes­sor Phelps said yes­ter­day that Went­worth might be more af­flu­ent than most parts of Aus­tralia, but the cost of liv­ing was also higher and most res­i­dents were up against the same fi­nan­cial pres­sures and con­cerns about the di­rec­tion of the coun­try as the rest of Aus­tralia.

In a di­rect dig at Mr Sharma, who cur­rently lives in the up­per north shore sub­urb of Tur­ra­murra, Pro­fes­sor Phelps said most “out­siders” made the mis­take that Went­worth “is all about bil­lion­aires and big bucks and flash cars”.

“There are wealthy peo­ple who live in the area but 65 per cent of peo­ple who live in the area live in apart­ments,” she said.

‘‘Peo­ple here are strug­gling with mort­gages just like peo­ple ev­ery­where else in Aus­tralia.”

But Mr Sharma yes­ter­day coun­tered Pro­fes­sor Phelps’ swipe at his “out­sider” sta­tus. Af­ter two decades of over­seas diplo­matic ser­vice, he plans to move into the Went­worth elec­torate with his wife and three chil­dren as soon as pos­si­ble.

He said af­ter so long away from the coun­try, he had wanted his fam­ily to spend a few months with his 90-year-old fa­ther Bo Sharma, who still lives on Syd­ney’s north shore.

“My whole pro­fes­sional life has been be­com­ing a lo­cal wher­ever I go,” Mr Sharma said.


En­dorsed Lib­eral can­di­date for Went­worth Dave Sharma in Dou­ble Bay yes­ter­day


For­mer AMA pres­i­dent and now in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for Went­worth Ker­ryn Phelps yes­ter­day

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