The campaign for Saturday week’s Pittwater by-election limps on uneventfully, although some observers remain excited at the prospect of John Brogden’s demise causing a backlash sufficient to endanger the Liberal candidate, former party fund raiser Paul Nicolaou. Local ratepayers association types have been penning letters to the editor and badgering suburban newspaper journalists to vent their outrage that Nicolaou was until recently a resident of Lane Cove, scoring particularly well with last week’s revelation that he moved into his new Mona Vale address too late to get on the roll for the by-election. However, history suggests suburban voters don’t get terribly excited about this kind of thing and that a messy preselection outcome was the real prerequisite for a Liberal defeat, and this the party has managed to avoid. They are also boosted by a field of rival contenders that includes the mayor, two former mayors and another councillor besides. Since New South Wales has optional preferential voting, preference exhaustion from the scattered anti-Liberal vote will make it very difficult for any of the independents to cause Nicolaou real trouble.
The candidates in ballot paper order:
Alex McTaggart (Independent). Widely perceived as the main threat to the Liberal Party due to his current status as Pittwater Mayor. Despite his forceful denials, McTaggart has been subject to repeated suggestions that he is receiving help from the Labor Party. The most interesting was a small item in the Sun-Herald noting that postal vote applications sent out by McTaggart suggested access to the electronic electoral rolls, which are apparently available "only to the major parties". For what it’s worth, Piers Akerman reckons Pittwater Council is "significantly on the nose with ratepayers and is perceived as arrogant and uncaring", and that McTaggart is "seen as a councillor elected on a single NIMBY (not in my back yard) issue – a ban on television crews at his local beach, Avalon".
Paul Nicolaou (Liberal). The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Nicolaou would shed as little as 5 per cent of the Liberal vote, according to "Labor polling" – though why they would bother to conduct any was not made clear.
Patricia Giles (Christian Democratic). The former Pittwater mayor’s electoral record is better than incumbent Alex McTaggart’s, but she would surely be better off without the Fred Nile brand.
Robert Dunn (Independent). A former mayor and Liberal Party member, Dunn told Lisa Muxworthy of the Manly Daily that he was running because he was "appalled" by the "contempt" the Liberal Party had shown Pittwater by nominating a Lane Cove resident. He is apparently no more pleased with the member for the corresponding Federal seat of Mackellar, Bronwyn Bishop, having scored a reasonable 7.7 per cent in his run against her at last year’s Federal election.
Natalie Stevens (Greens). Stevens became the first Greens member on Pittwater Council at last year’s election, winning a seat in the five-member Northern Ward with 18.6 per cent of the vote.
Mario Nicotra (Democrats). Nicotra was also the Democrats candidate for Mackellar at the Federal election. He tells the Manly Daily that Mona Vale Hospital "should be rebuilt as a showcase healing centre" incorporating, among other things, "complementary medicines, natural healing, homoeopathy, acupuncture and other services".