Malcolm Turnbull denies the Liberal party is sexist after a female assistant minister was dumped by pre-selectors for a male, despite the prime minister giving her a reference.
The Liberal National Party candidate for the Brisbane seat of Ryan, Jane Prentice, on Saturday lost to her former staff member, Brisbane City councillor Julian Simmonds.
At a time when political parties are trying to increase the representation of women Ms Pentice's fate has angered some Queensland Liberal MPs, including Michelle Landry who's "totally appalled" and Warren Entsch who labelled it a "bloody disgrace".
Asked if the Liberals are sexist, Mr Turnbull said: "No, I disagree with that".
"The Liberal party is a grassroots political organisation and the pre-selections are determined by the membership," he told Melbourne radio 3AW on Tuesday.
Mr Turnbull said he regretted Ms Prentice's loss, describing her as a friend.
He had written the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services a personal reference.
A representative was there to vote for her but that person was one of just under 370 people at the meeting, Mr Turnbull said.
"Everyone calls for democracy in political parties. You can't have it both ways," he said.