Labor’s plans to enlist Australian Conservation Foundation president and Oz Rock giant Peter Garrett for a safe Sydney seat had politics watchers of a certain age scanning their memories for apposite Midnight Oil lyrics, and they were not found wanting.
Laurie Brereton’s announcement on Friday evening that he would be vacating his Botany Bay-side seat of Kingsford-Smith surprised many, but obviously not the Labor officials who confirmed shortly afterwards that Garrett had been approached to run. Mark Latham soon added his enthusiastic endorsement. When Midnight Oil broke up in December 2002 it was widely reported that Garrett was leaving the band to prepare for a political career – indeed, The Australian endorsed the idea in an editorial at the time – and suspicions were aroused when he subsequently turned down an offer to lead the New South Wales Greens ticket. However the move has inflamed rival aspirants to the position and their followers in the local branches, and Garrett’s nomination will entail either a fraught preselection vote with much of Latham’s credibility pending on the result, or an internally bruising intervention by the national executive. Garrett has yet to make an announcement but today’s Sydney Morning Herald reports that "senior Labor sources close to Mr Garrett were expecting that he would accept the offer once the internal ructions within the party caused by reports of his impending preselection had settled".
Mark Vaile, Trade Minister and heir apparent to the National Party leadership, faces a potential challenge in his North Coast electorate of Lyne from Rob Oakeshott, independent member for the corresponding state seat of Port Macquarie. Oakeshott was elected for the Nationals in 1999 but quit the party mid-term, winning re-election as an independent in March 2003 with 70.1 per cent of the primary vote.
Four nominations were received for the National Party Senate preselection in Victoria, with the vote to be held on July 9. At stake is the crucial second spot on the Coalition Senate ticket and an all-but guaranteed six years in parliament. Incumbent Julian McGauran faces Scott Mitchell, a former Young Nationals president who is pursuing his challenge at the cost of his job as staffer for the aforementioned Mark Vaile; Darren Chester, of regional business lobby group Champions of the Bush; and Nationals junior vice-president Wes Head.
The Greens confirmed that Christine Milne, former leader of the state parliamentary party, would head their Senate ticket in Tasmania. Milne is a strong chance to be elected in any case, and will be a near-certainty if 69-year-old incumbent Brian Harradine chooses to retire.
In an otherwise quiet week on the opinion poll front, Friday saw Roy Morgan revert to its usual contrary-to-Newspoll ways. Labor were up 4.5 to 45.5 per cent with the Coalition down 2.5 to 40, blowing out Labor’s two-party preferred lead from 5 to 10 per cent. Quoth Gary Morgan: "this latest Morgan poll makes sense".