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Liberal candidate opens key byelection battle with climate pledge

While authorities are yet to set the date for the byelection, the contest is now clear after Dr Kotvojs defeated Mark Schweikert by 106 to 27 votes in an online preselection to choose the Liberal candidate on Saturday.

Dr Kotvojs has a doctorate in education, is a board member at Oxfam Australia and runs a farm near Narooma that has been in her family for 50 years.

“I believe that the climate is changing, I believe that humans contribute to that change in climate and I believe that we need to have a reduction in emissions,” she said on Sunday at a press event with Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

“We need to look at approaches to be adaptive and to have our communities resilient.”

Dr Kotvojs endorsed the adoption of solar power and said her home was “completely off grid” and ran on solar.

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She also entered the political debate over hazard reduction as a way to cut the risk of bushfires, given her experience last summer.

“The difference in areas where the fuel had been managed and the national parks and state forest had done hazard reduction burns – I know that in those sections around our property, the fire came through with far less intensity, it was much easier to manage,” she said.

Dr Kotvojs is a director of a private company, Kurrajong Hill, that has won contracts with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Education in recent years for advice on aid and other projects.

The company gained a $13,598 contract with DFAT that concluded last October, an $11,039 contract with DFAT that also ended in October and a $128,098 contract with the Education Department that concluded in November.

The High Court ruled several politicians ineligible for Parliament before the last election because they breached the ban in section 44 of the constitution on having “any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement” with the Commonwealth.

Fiona Kotvojs and Prime Minister Scott Morrison address reporters on Sunday.

Fiona Kotvojs and Prime Minister Scott Morrison address reporters on Sunday.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

A Liberal Party spokesman said Dr Kotvojs would “remove herself from any contractual arrangements” connected to the Commonwealth before nominations for the byelection close.

Ms McBain congratulated Dr Kotvojs on being chosen by the Liberals and said she hoped for a “clean campaign” that would be “free of dirty tricks” and focused on policy issues.

Campaigning in Merimbula on Sunday, Ms McBain said communities needed faster government responses to the summer bushfires.

“The recovery process has to be designed better and has to work for the people that are impacted,” she said.

“There has to be a streamlined process where you have a caseworker that can actually take your case to different agencies and not have those people impacted going from agency to agency, waiting on phone lines, you know, waiting for support.”

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