Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne has defended the rough-and-tumble of Liberal Party preselection as the federal coalition continues to cop flak for its gender imbalance.
Liberal MP Ann Sudmalis is fighting off a challenge from a male candidate for her NSW south coast seat, after her colleague and assistance minister Jane Prentice last week lost preselection for her Queensland seat.
The tussles have reignited debate about female representation in parliament, but Mr Pyne insists the Liberal preselection process is sound.
"There's nothing wrong the preselection process in the Liberal Party. It's very democratic, as it should be," he told Nine Network on Friday.
"Every member of parliament who wants to remain and candidates who want to stand are allowed to do so, and the voters of the party will make a decision."
Mr Pyne said the process was based on merit "because nobody tells the preselectors how to vote".
He described Ms Prentice as a great friend and good colleague, but said she lost fair and square.
"I defeated a sitting member in preselection 26 years ago. I'm sure he wasn't happy very about it," Mr Pyne said.
"That's internal party democracy. That's the way it works. The alternative is the smoke-filled room of the Labor party where they dole out seats to the factions."
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said it was clear the Liberals had a problem with women's representation.
"Fact is they've been going backwards in the last few terms at a time Labor's representation of women has surged to 48 per cent and after next election will hit the 50 per cent figure," he said.
"Jane Prentice is a very effective local member. She's one of the few people on the other side who understand about cities and urban policy and public transport. I think she's a great loss to the parliament."