September 21, 2023

Frydenberg rules out Kooyong run as Wyatt laments his absence

By Paul Sakkal and Hamish Hastie
Updated September 21, 2023 — 5.46pmfirst published at 9.11am
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Josh Frydenberg, who has ruled out a political comeback at the next election, would not have opposed the Voice and may have changed the essence of the referendum if he was still in parliament, former Coalition Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt says.

On Thursday, the former treasurer was revealed as the new chairman of investment bank Goldman Sachs’ Australian and New Zealand operation and announced he would not run against independent Monique Ryan, avoiding the rigours of federal politics.

Teal independent Monique Ryan toppled Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong in May 2022. Credit: Nine

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Kooyong Liberal division chair Rod Kemp, a former senator, said they hoped Frydenberg would re-enter public life, and a return to politics at the following election remains a distinct possibility.

A handful of moderate colleagues urged the former MP to topple Scott Morrison last term, and he was a favourite to become opposition leader if he did not lose his seat to Ryan.

Wyatt, who was a key backer of the Voice, suggested on Wednesday the referendum would have had a better chance of succeeding if the former treasurer was still in parliament.

“I believe if Josh Frydenberg was there, he would not have opposed bipartisan support,” he told a Perth forum on the Voice organised by Curtin independent MP Kate Chaney.

The Noongar, Yamatji and Wongi man was a cabinet minister with Frydenberg but quit the Liberal Party in April in protest against the party’s rejection of the Voice.

Wyatt, centre, with Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg in August 2021.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“The political journey could have been something great,” Wyatt said. “He [Frydenberg] would have said, ‘we will let this run’.”


Frydenberg declined to respond to Wyatt’s remarks and has not commented on the Voice since the last election. In 2021 he launched Liberal senator Andrew Bragg’s book on reconciliation and said then he was confident proposals such as the Voice would be successful but urged proponents to secure bipartisanship and avoid a “take it or leave it” attitude.


Goldman Sachs, which Frydenberg joined in July last year as a senior regional adviser for the Asia Pacific, announced in an internal staff memo that he would become chairman of the firm’s local operation.

“Josh will focus on further deepening and strengthening client coverage across the A/NZ region,” it said.

The 52-year-old’s decision to stay away from politics is significant for the Liberal Party because, if he were to return to Canberra, he would immediately have been considered a potential Coalition leader, and a counterbalance against more conservative forces in the party.

The highly anticipated call also represents a big shift in the power dynamics in the Victorian Liberal Party, in which Frydenberg has been a central figure for years.

In a statement after this masthead flagged his departure, Frydenberg said: “Kooyong will always have a special place in the Liberal Party’s heart.”

“I am proud of our Liberal values and what we were able to achieve together locally and federally as part of the Abbott, Turnbull, and Morrison governments.”

“In the almost 18 months since the last election, I have spent more precious time with [wife] Amie and our young family and have enjoyed returning to the private sector.”

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, who had previously said he would like to see Frydenberg run again, said he ran the nation’s budget in a historic and difficult period during the pandemic and had made an enormous contribution to his country and party. One of the key criticisms of Frydenberg was the $90 billion spent on the pandemic’s JobKeeper program, and concerns it enabled profit-making businesses to swell their bottom lines.

The opposition leader said he hoped Frydenberg would “work his way back into public life at some point”.


Frydenberg last month had told friends he was unlikely to stand again.

Amelia Hamer, the 30-year-old, grand-niece of former Victorian premier Sir Rupert “Dick” Hamer, is weighing a bid to be the Liberal candidate for Kooyong.

Other candidates are likely to emerge in the coming weeks. They may include Lucas Moon, an anti-pokies campaigner at Hawthorn RSL, Melbourne councillor Roshena Campbell, former candidate Georgina Downer, Caroline Elliot, or past Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chair Karyn Sobels.

Monique Ryan is currently in Washington as part of a cross-party delegation meeting with members of Congress and officials from the State and Justice departments to call for Julian Assange to be sent home by Christmas.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

Paul Sakkal is a federal politics reporter for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.Connect via Twitter.
Hamish Hastie is WAtoday’s state political reporter.Connect via Twitter or email.


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