I wish my successor well, Mr Andrews said. I wish that in the future the Liberal Party will remain united, stable, strong so that it can provide the government we all want for Australia; that we can meet the challenges of the future and we can make this country an even better country for our children and grandchildren.
Sources inside the preselection event, held in Ivanhoe, said Mr Wolahan received hostile questioning about why he was challenging a candidate who was endorsed by a sitting prime minister and two former leaders Tony Abbott and John Howard.
Mr Andrews was strongly backed by the conservative faction in the party, led by Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, and the result is a blow to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, who supported his colleague during the preselection campaign. Former prime minister Mr Abbott and senior federal ministers made calls to delegates on behalf of Mr Andrews last week.
Does it look weak for Josh if Kevin loses? Yes it does, one senior party figure told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald this week.
Mr Frydenberg told delegates after voting commenced that he would support whoever the successful candidate was. A total of 292 of 318 eligible delegates attended the preselection convention.
In a joint press conference with Mr Andrews, Mr Frydenberg said the Liberal Party had started a new chapter in the seat of Menzies.
Kevin Andrews has served the people of Menzies and the people of Australia with distinction for nearly 30 years, Mr Frydenberg said.
In that time he has held a number of senior portfolios in a Coalition government and continues to perform senior roles in Scott Morrisons parliamentary party … Kevin, thank you for your outstanding commitment to Liberal values, to your electorate, to your country.
Following the bitter preselection battle, a federal Liberal MP told The Age and Sydney Morning Herald: This is a message for Josh Frydenberg. Its time to stop listening to Michael Sukkar about the Victorian division.
Mr Wolahan, 43, was the first person to attempt to unseat a federal Liberal in Victoria since Mr Frydenberg unsuccessfully challenged Petro Georgiou in Kooyong in 2006. The last successful preselection challenge was in 1990 when future ministers Peter Costello and David Kemp won battles against sitting members Roger Shipton and Ian Macphee in the safe Liberal seats of Higgins and Goldstein.
The contest was predicted to be neck-and-neck by both camps in the lead-up to Sundays event at Ivanhoe, where local delegates heard speeches from the two candidates and held a question and answer session.
Party operatives with knowledge of the group of voters last week said the tight race could be determined by non-rusted-on voters who made up their minds on the day.
Mr Wolahan will hold a press conference with Mr Frydenberg later on Sunday. The result will be certified at a meeting of the partys state administrative committee on Sunday evening.
Mr Wolahan who completed three tours of Afghanistan in the 2nd Commando Regiment of the Australian Army, including as platoon commander, and who has a degree from Cambridge was touted as a potential rival to Mr Andrews for many years and appealed to local members to renew the party by electing him as the candidate. The barrister did not seek high-profile endorsements and relied on the support of local community members.
Mr Andrews campaign focused on his three-decade career, during which he opposed voluntary euthanasia laws and the introduction of abortion medication RU486.
He outlined a fresh five-year plan and had endorsements from a cohort of federal ministers including Health Minister Greg Hunt, Trade Minister Dan Tehan, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, former prime minister John Howard and News Corp commentators Andrew Bolt and Peta Credlin, who spoke at events in support of Mr Andrews.
In the 2011 Australia Day honours Mr Wolahan received a Commendation for Distinguished Service, for duty in action. He attended Ringwood College, obtained a law degree at Monash University and studied a masters degree in international relations at the University of Cambridge.
He joined the Liberal Party in 1996.
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Paul is a Victorian political reporter for The Age.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.