LIBERAL Sophie Mirabella has ruled herself out of contention for Tony Abbott’s front bench as it becomes increasingly likely she will lose her Victorian seat.
Ms Mirabella, who was today 1449 votes behind independent Cathy McGowan in the Victorian seat of Indi, was in line to take the innovation, industry and science portfolio, which she held in opposition.
But, with the final outcome in Indi unlikely to be known for days, she said she wanted to allow Mr Abbott to get on and select his frontbench.
“In this set of circumstances, I have taken the opportunity to speak to Tony Abbott,” she said.
“It is now time that our new Prime Minister has absolute freedom to select his new front bench. As my own future in the parliament is not assured, I have asked that I not be considered for selection,” she said.
“Around Tony are men and women of great substance who will ably conduct themselves as members of his cabinet.
“This is not about me. This is about our country.”
Mr Abbott is now expected to name his frontbench on Monday.
He is expected to promote elevate another woman to cabinet to take Ms Mirabella’s place.
Deputy Liberal Leader Julie Bishop is the only other Liberal woman in cabinet.
Ms McGowan received an unexpected boost in counting yesterday with the discovery of a wad of more than 1000 pre-poll votes for the independent candidate at a polling centre in Wangaratta.
The Australian Electoral Commission ascribed the oversight to a clerical error whereby the 1003 votes weren’t recorded in her favour, underestimating Ms McGowan’s support and artificially inflating Ms Mirabella’s chances of retaining Indi.
A scrutineer said that a “one had been placed in a column and should have been a two”, leading the pile of votes to be re-counted and then attributed to the conservative independent.
McGowan told the ABC she “must admit to an outbreak of hope”.
She said Indi voters had had enough of being ignored.
“You take a seat for granted, you stop listening and you stop giving us policies that work for rural and regional Australia and people are going to say `It doesn’t work for us’,” Ms McGowan said.