Labor stalwart admits: ‘I voted Liberal’
UNTIL recently, the very last thing Graham Richardson would've thought of doing was vote for the Liberal Party.
The Bob Hawke-era minister and Labor stalwart has been a fixture of left-leaning politics since he joined the Labor Party in 1966 at the age of 17.
But at the last Federal Election, which most pundits believed would result in a Bill Shorten government, Richardson switched sides.
And like many other Australians who defied expectations, Labor powerbroker Richardson also abandoned the party at the 11th hour.
"For the first time in my life I voted one Liberal," he revealed on Sky News last night.
Although in the 12 hours since that stunning declaration, Richardson has attempted to back-pedal in the midst of upset among his party colleagues.
The 70-year-old lives in the ritzy east Sydney electorate of Wentworth, a very safe Liberal seat, which until last year was represented by Malcolm Turnbull.
In a by-election following Mr Turnbull's exit from politics, Wentworth fell to independent Kerryn Phelps.
"I voted for Sharma in Wentworth and not for Phelps," Richardson revealed in an appearance on Sky News last night. "For the first time in my life I voted one Liberal."
Former diplomat Dave Sharma won back the blue ribbon electorate for the Liberals at the May 18 poll, and Richardson said it was the candidate's focus on hyper-local issues that won him over.
"We have to show people that there's nothing like looking after people at home. There's plenty of people who need looking after," he told broadcaster Alan Jones.
The pair had been speaking about the tragic plight of Julie-Anne Finney, who is lobbying for a royal commission into defence force suicides in the wake of the death of her son.
David Strafford Finney took his life on February 1 after serving his country in the navy for two decades.
Ms Finney said he had battled mental health issues after suffering a number of traumatic events, and despite pleading for help, was let down by the military.
"I listen to the Julie-Anne Finneys of the world and you see the real hurt, the real pain of people who've done a lot for their country," Richardson told Jones last night. "We have to make a stand on these things."
But this morning, Richardson took to Twitter to make a bizarre and baffling clarification, now claiming that he "did not vote Liberal".
Sky News 6 Nov Graham Richardson "For the first time in my life I voted one Liberal". You offered to make a donation and requested bank details for our campaign. I never sent you the details.— Tim Murray (@Timpmurray) November 6, 2019
He said he voted for Labor candidate Tim Murray and made a donation to his campaign, although he claimed to have preferenced Mr Sharma second.
And in another curious twist, Mr Murray has emerged to deny that his campaign ever received a contribution from Richardson.
"You offered to make a donation and requested bank details for our campaign," Mr Murray said. "I never sent you details."
He also repeated Richardson's own words from Sky News last night, that he "voted one Liberal" for "the first time in my life".
Richardson said politicians needed to prioritise the needs of people in Australia before shifting their attention to global or niche issues.
It was a reference to Dr Phelps, who fought for action on climate change and the treatment of offshore refugees during her brief stint in parliament.
Too much attention was being paid to "tales of woe from people who've never done a thing for this country", Richardson said.
"That's why I voted for Sharma in Wentworth and not for Phelps."
As well as being regarded as Labor's "numbers man" during his career, Richardson also held a number of portfolios in the Hawke and Paul Keating governments.
Richardson's 70th birthday soiree at the weekend, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, was well-attended by senior figures from both sides of politics.
The most senior was Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was photographed with wife Jenny paying tribute to Richardson. Also in attendance was Treasurer Josh Fryndenberg and former PM Tony Abbott.