Speculation is mounting that former foreign minister Marise Payne will announce her retirement from politics imminently, opening the door to a hotly contested preselection for her Senate seat.
Three sources, all of whom declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said she had decided to leave politics after a 26-year career and would make an announcement potentially within days.
However, Payne did not respond to requests for comment and the NSW Liberal Party did not confirm her exit.
Another Liberal source who attended Maria Kovacic’s maiden Senate speech on Tuesday night, but was not authorised to speak publicly about the dinner, said Payne and former NSW minister Andrew Constance openly discussed her quitting politics “within a week” at a Canberra dinner.
A second source said Constance, who Payne hopes will be her successor, had indicated Payne intended to leave politics imminently.
Liberal Party conventions prevent people from speaking about preselections.
This masthead reported on Tuesday that No campaign leader Warren Mundine was a serious contender to replace Payne, and that he would likely garner support from conservatives, the Centre-Right, and even peel off moderate votes.
“He would be very difficult to beat. Ninety per cent of Liberal Party members hate the Voice. And he’s the public face of the campaign,” one source said.