Nationals frontbencher Darren Chester has bluntly dismissed the prospect of Peta Credlin running for the Liberal Party in the regional Victorian seat of Mallee.
Mr Chester said he had a lot of respect for Ms Credlin, the high-profile former chief of staff to Tony Abbott, but she did not live in the area.
"It's a long way from the Mallee to Sydney, mate. She doesn't live in the seat," he told the ABC on Sunday.
"People in that community expect their local member to be part of that community for a long time and live there and work there and understand the community."
The National Party has preselected Anne Webster for the traditionally safe coalition seat, which was vacated by Andrew Broad, who resigned over the so-called "sugar baby" scandal.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison appears open to Ms Credlin representing his party in Mallee at the next election.
"I encourage any woman of great standing and real talent to run," he told reporters in Melbourne.
Mr Chester, the minister for veterans' affairs, conceded the Liberals were entitled to enter the race.
"It's a fair and open contest. It's the way the coalition agreement has worked for a long time now," he said.
"We're very proud of the candidate we've chosen. She's a new generation National and she's someone who I think is going to do very well.
"If the Libs want to show up, they're most welcome to."
Australian Associated Press