A Liberal preselection battle is ramping up in the safe South Australian federal seat of Barker as nurse Katherine McBride challenges long-standing representative Tony Pasin.

Key points:

  • SA nurse Katherine McBride is challenging Tony Pasin for preselection in the federal seat of Barker
  • Ms McBride is the wife of regional Liberal SA MP Nick McBride
  • A political commentator says she will have a hard time defeating Mr Pasin

The conservative Liberal MP has been representing the south-east SA seat in parliament for nearly 10 years.

Mr Pasin appeared on ABC South East SA’s Breakfast program on the morning Ms McBride’s confirmation was reported and, when asked, said he had nominated for preselection but would not comment further.

“It’s a long-standing Liberal Party convention for members to refrain from making public comment regarding preselections,” he said.

“They’re internal party matters and I, for one, intend to respect that convention.”

Ms McBride, whose husband is conservative regional SA Liberal MP Nick McBride, declined to comment.

Katherine McBride is the wife of conservative SA Liberal MP Nick McBride.(Supplied: Nick McBride)

Former south-east SA independent MP Don Pegler said people should not assume Ms McBride had the same views as her husband, who was caught criticising his own party’s relationships with industry groups in leaked audio on ABC Radio Adelaide last week.

Don Pegler was the member for Mount Gambier from 2010 to 2014.(ABC: Tasha Impey)

“Have you ever known a woman to have the same views as her husband?” he asked.

He said Ms McBride would have the “odds stacked against her” since Mr Pasin had fared better than most of his colleagues at last year’s federal election.

“Too often … they’re chasing popularity rather than what’s best for the country,” Mr Pegler said.

The former politician said Mr Pasin should not be criticised for not becoming a minister or shadow minister in his time in parliament since he was in the less powerful conservative faction.

Liberal MP backs Tony Pasin

Senator Anne Ruston, a senior female figure in the federal Liberal Party, remained tight-lipped on her views of the preselection race and said it was “a matter for members of the SA Liberal party”.

Nicola Centofanti said she was backing Tony Pasin, who helped get her elected to the SA parliament.(Supplied: Nicola Centofanti)

But Opposition Liberal leader for the SA Legislative Council Nicola Centofanti said she backed Mr Pasin.

Ms Centofanti, who lives in the Barker electorate, is also the SA Liberal Party’s women’s taskforce chair.

Liberal MP Tony Pasin has held the safe seat of Barker for nearly a decade.(ABC South East SA: Kate Hill)

“Federal representation is a matter for the federal executive, however, as someone who has been represented in my community by Tony Pasin for the last decade, he is one of the hardest working and most effective members of parliament I have known,” she said.

“I credit Tony’s support in large part for my election to the state parliament.

“He is a champion for women in politics and I know this is a sentiment shared by other women, including former member for Boothby, Nicolle Flint.”

A chance for more female MPs

Labor senator Karen Grogan said the preselection race gave the Liberal Party an opportunity to balance its female representation.

Federal senator Karen Grogan wants to see a better representation of the community in federal parliament.(ABC North & West: Lucas Forbes)

“More than 50 per cent of the population are women and yet the Liberal Party is woefully short of that,” she said.

“In the Labor Party we’re very proud we instigated quotas to increase the number of women preselected in our party … to make sure there were opportunities for women at all levels of the party.

“This is an opportunity for the Liberal Party to have a long hard look at Katherine McBride and her skills and connections to community and think about whether it’s time to start prioritising women for the community.”