‘PM Turnbull not the old Malcolm – that’s why I’m challenging’

Labor’s candidate in Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth, Evan Hughes, says he is running against the Prime Minister because Mr Turnbull has turned his back on causes he used to champion.

Mr Hughes, a prominent gallery owner, will contest the next federal election.

“I will defend the Malcolm of old. I certainly defend the Malcolm that Wentworth fell in love with, that Malcolm that believes in same-sex marriage and action on climate change and all those sorts of things, the Malcolm we all used to know,” Mr Hughes told 7.30.

“These are very, very important issues — not just to my community in Wentworth, but important issues to a lot of Australians.

“The biggest problem, I think, that we face, is we have a prime minister with so much hope and expectation there, and yet we’re starting to see, more and more, a prime minister who because of the situation in which he’s in with his job and his dependence there, he has turned his back on things like climate change, if only to sort of prove that Tony Abbott had a legacy worth defending.”

“He’s turned his back on things like same-sex marriage, if only to save Cory Bernardi any hurt feelings.”

Evan Hughes is a gallery owner and the son of the larger-than-life art dealer, Ray Hughes.

He said Mr Turnbull was one of the people who first got him interested in politics.

“I was just starting high school, the republican debate was raging and I remember, ironically, running around Cranbrook [school] defending Malcolm Turnbull to all these kids whose parents couldn’t imagine a world where he might be president,” he said.

But now Mr Hughes fears for what he describes as progressive causes.

“I was a young man who believed in the republic,” he said.

PHOTO: Evan Hughes owns the prominent Hughes Gallery in Sydney's Surry Hills with his father Ray.
PHOTO: Evan Hughes owns the prominent Hughes Gallery in Sydney’s Surry Hills with his father Ray.

“I have a two-year-old boy now and I look into his eyes and I go, is it going to be another generation before we have a republic because this leader thinks it’s too hard?

“Is it going to be another generation before members of the same sex can get married, even though that is a matter of legal authority rather than morality?

“I don’t think we can afford all this, tomorrow and tomorrow, just based on the hope that Malcolm Turnbull can deliver some sort of great fix after he inevitably wins the next election.

“Let’s start looking at the now, let’s start looking at the things that the people of Australia want to happen.

“That’s why I’m running – to try and remind Malcolm that, if he’s going to be prime minister, in any sitting week he has between now and that election, he can effect more change than many socially minded people can achieve in a lifetime.

“If he doesn’t start effecting that change, all he is is promise.”

Even if he loses the election, Mr Hughes said he would still consider a future in politics.

“I like to think I’m someone who says what I mean, and means what I say,” Mr Hughes said.

“I think Australians want to see a few more people like that and a few less politicians.

“So, we’ll see what happens.

“If I don’t win this time round, when Scott Morrison’s running at the next election there’ll be a public that might be more sensitive to that fact that all this progressive hope is hot air at the moment.”