Independent Kerryn Phelps has wrested control of the electorate of Wentworth from the Liberal Party in an historic by-election win over the weekend.
Phelps claimed victory early on Saturday night, with pre-polling and postal votes drawing the results closer but nevertheless marking Phelps the member elect.
1,650 votes separate Sharma and Phelps, resulting in a 48.88 per cent to 51.12 per cent result on a two party-preferred basis.
“Just a few short weeks ago I was told this was an impossible task and if we actually managed to win the seat of Wentworth, that it would be a miracle,” Phelps said in her victory speech.
“It was said if we won the seat of Wentworth, it would make history, and, my friends, we have made history.”
Wentworth has been held by the Liberal Party and its predecessors since federation.
“I would like to say any young people, any women, any aspiring independents out there, if you are thinking of running for parliament or running for public office: yes, it can be tough, yes, the road can be hard, but it is so worthwhile that we have the right people stepping up to represent Australia,” Phelps said.
Phelps praised the young people who got involved in her campaign, saying it was heartening that people as young as 13 and 14 years old wanted to “come onto the polling stations with their parents, talk to people, hand out flyers and really understand what the Australian democratic process is all about at grassroots level.”
“People have been concerned about the direction of government for a very long time and we’ve seen a lack of decency, a lack of integrity and we have to look at what the House of Representatives is about, it is about representing the people and the people have spoken loud and clear,” she said.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to earn the trust of the voters of Wentworth tonight,” Sharma said in his concession speech.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also spoke, saying that while it was “not an unexpected outcome for us, they have looked at Canberra and the Liberal party has paid a big price tonight for the events of several months ago.”
“But as a party, we will continue to rise again,” Morrison said.
Sharma later pointed to the ousting of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as the key reason for the Liberals’ loss.
“The big headwind here, the macro picture, was really the manner in which Malcolm Turnbull lost the prime ministership,” Sharma said on Sky News.
“I think Australians have very little tolerance for changing leaders mid-cycle and they certainly had intolerance for the frequency with which we have been doing [that].
“Australians are sick of this, I am sick of this,” Sharma said.
Last week, Phelps lodged a complaint with the Australian Electoral Commission over a fake email which falsely stated she was withdrawing from campaign.
Phelps’ win pushes the Coalition into a minority government, with Australia once again having a hung parliament.