Australia’s former ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma said he is “humbled” by his election win in the federal seat of Wentworth, after current Independent member Kerryn Phelps conceded defeat on Monday afternoon.
Mr Sharma, who lost the by-election to Ms Phelps last October, has claimed victory – but by the smallest of margins. On a two-party preferred basis, Mr Sharma won 51.67 per cent of the vote while Ms Phelps has 48.33 percent, with more than 75 per cent of votes counted.
Mr Sharma said he was “honoured and humbled by the trust the people of Wentworth have shown in me by this election result.”
Both as an ambassador to the Startup Nation of Israel and as a business consultant, Mr Sharma has demonstrated interest in the technology sector and a good understanding of its dynamics.
The result is a win for the technology industry as it brings another tech literate representative into the Parliament.
The new Wentworth member said his first priority is to be a “good local representative, helping to protect open spaces and park lands like the ones we stand in today, helping to fight for better local infrastructure and transport, helping to preserve the local assets we enjoy here in Wentworth and the wonderful quality of life.”
Mr Sharma also thanked former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who held the seat for 14 years until he was ousted last year, for his support.
“I want to acknowledge him publicly, Malcolm’s years of contribution to public life in Australia, the government and people of Australia and the people of Wentworth,” he said.
In return, Mr Turnbull congratulated Mr Sharma through a tweet, wishing him luck in the new role.
Last month, Mr Sharma released a paper criticising how his old department, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), is struggling to use digital tools to conduct its “mission of persuasion, influence and advocacy.”
“There’s too much use of new media channels to transmit old media content, a tendency to duck rather than address difficult issues, and a failure to engage within the digital life cycle of a news story,” he wrote in a paper for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.
He recommended that an independent review should be conducted into DFAT’s digital diplomacy efforts, and new positions of ambassador to Silicon Valley and to China’s tech giants should also be created.
DFAT also needs to adopt the “nimbleness and agility of the tech world in how it conducts Australia’s external policy”, according to Mr Sharma.
“The bureaucracy is still far too slow to adopt reform and changes…Why not encourage internal innovation…Test new platforms and business models. Run some pilots, iterate and adjust, gather the evidence, and see what works best. Don’t insist on homogeneity,” he said.