Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz says he was the victim of a smear campaign in the lead-up to a crucial preselection vote, which saw him relegated to the last spot on his party's Senate ticket.
The 63-year-old - a former employment minister who has served in the parliament since 1994 - told Triple M Hobart he was disappointed that the 67 preselectors belonging to the Liberal Party's state branch had voted to demote him on Saturday.
And he blamed both ageism and sexism for the decision.
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"When people want to make manoeuvres, they have to find something that you can't do anything about," Senator Abetz said on Tuesday. "And one thing I can't do anything about is the day I was born, nor the sex that I was given, courtesy of the chromosome interaction, whatever, which caused me to be a male."
"At 63, I believe I'm still young enough to offer a full Senate term, with a wealth of experience that you simply cannot buy."
Senator Abetz said there had "clearly" been a smear campaign against him prior to the preselection vote.
At number one on the Tasmanian Liberals' Senate ticket for the next federal election - due by May next year - is 38-year-old Jonathon Duniam, who is the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries. At number two is Launceston-based Wendy Askew, 58, who filled a casual vacancy in the Senate in 2019 after the retirement of her brother David Bushby.
Senator Abetz said being relegated to third on the ticket was a "huge problem" but that a seat was "winnable" from that position if "we put in a very good campaign and enough of my fellow Tasmanians agree that I should remain in the Senate".
He said Tasmanians would have the chance to vote below the line to express their full support for him.
"If people do feel strongly, they do have that opportunity," Senator Abetz said. "At the end of the day, what I would encourage people to do is to vote as they see it on merit, experience, capacity."
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