Dr Fiona Kotvojs is the Liberal Party candidate for the federal seat of Eden-Monaro in the upcoming by-election after winning a vote of party members on Saturday night.
She was chosen for pre-selection over defence department official Cr Mark Schweikert.
Dr Kotvojs, from Dignams Creek, is a former teacher, coastal geomorphologist, beef farmer and small businesswoman, who contested Eden-Monaro at the 2019 election and gained a swing of more than 2 per cent against the now-retired (from politics) Dr Mike Kelly. She lost with a margin of 1685 votes.
Dr Kelly’s resignation late last month prompted the by-election, for which no date has yet been set.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance previously put his hand up for pre-selection as a Liberal candidate, however withdrew only 24 hours later when a newspaper front page revealed Deputy Premier John Barilaro had used a curse word to describe him to colleagues.
Dr Kotvojs took to the campaign trail on Sunday, visiting Murrumbateman with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Senator Jim Molan.
“The many communities across the Eden-Monaro electorate are all building back after what’s been an incredibly difficult year, from fires, to droughts, to of course coronavirus,” Mr Morrison said Sunday.
“All of it is having its impact, but these communities are building back and they’re optimistic about the future, and the next two years will be so important to that. And that’s why this by-election is so important.
“Dr Fiona Kotvojs is the right person to be able to be part of our team to ensure we build back even better and even stronger right across the many communities of the Eden-Monaro.”
Dr Kotvojs said she is “looking forward to having the opportunity to work in the government to serve our communities, and helping the recovery process” following bushfires, drought, floods and Covid-19.
“That’s going to mean for me working to improve our jobs and job opportunities across the electorate,” she said.
“Different things in different parts of the community, ranging from energy, infrastructure, primary production, skills, a whole range of things. But I’m really looking forward to serving the community through working in our government.”
In January, fires tore through her property and she had to fight to save her home. She has since been an advocate for bushfire affected farmers and small businesses.
“As we rebuild, our community needs someone who faced the fires and understands what they’re going through. We also need a strong voice within the government,” said Dr Kotvojs.
“My community shaped who I am and now I’m determined to fight for it. There’s so much work to do as we rebuild from bushfires and Covid-19 and invest in major infrastructure, including highway upgrades and Snowy 2.0.”
Dr Kotvojs said she has worked on disaster recovery in developing nations.
“I’ve spent my career solving problems. I like to listen and work co-operatively. However when it’s needed, I’ll also have no hesitation marching into the Prime Minister’s office to make sure our community’s needs are met.”
The Labor Party announced Bega Mayor Kristy McBain as their candidate in early May and have been on the campaign trail since, visiting Tumbarumba, Batlow, Tumut and Adelong across the Snowy Valleys last week.
With Dr Kotvojs and Ms McBain both running for the federal seat, it is likely that Eden-Monaro will have its first female member of parliament, a point noted by Ms McBain on Sunday.
“I think it is fabulous, there are at the last count I can see four females that have put their hand up as part of the Eden-Monaro by-election,” Ms McBain said.
“We obviously have the new Liberal candidate, and we have the Christian Democrat candidate as well. I wish them all luck. I think that its fabulous that in 2020 we have the possibility of electing the first female member for Eden-Monaro.”
The Labor candidate is hoping for a “clean campaign”.
“I hope we can run a clean campaign, free of dirty tricks, focused on the issues that actually matter to people in Eden-Monaro,” Ms McBain said. “I look forward to working with all levels of government to make sure that jobs are a priority for every party, to make that sure there is a difference to the people in Eden-Monaro.”
Nationals leader Michael McCormack has said his party had not ruled out putting forward a candidate for the by-election, now that Mr Barilaro has confirmed he will not run for the seat.
If Dr Kotvojs was to take the seat of Eden-Monaro, it would mark the first time in 100 years the federal government has won a seat off the opposition at a by-election.