We seem to be going into an ill-timed poll drought, so to keep things ticking over, here’s a post focusing on Senate preselection news. Please note there’s a post below this one on this Saturday’s Wagga Wagga by-election, which is developing into a fairly interesting contest.
• Queensland Labor’s state conference determined its Senate preselection on the weekend, having been hurried along by a national executive concerned the Liberal leadership crisis might bring on an early election. In doing so it bypassed a vote that was granted to the party membership under rule changes in 2013. The top position has gone to Nita Green, a former staffer to Senator Murray Watt and the favoured candidate of the CFMMEU and United Voice. The position is reserved to the Left, and is being vacated with the retirement of Claire Moore.
Green’s ascendancy has been contentious because party rules reserve the position for a regional representative and she lives in Brisbane, though she says she will move if elected. Supporters of rival Left candidate Tania Major, a Cairns-based indigenous youth advocate and protege of Cape York leader Noel Pearson, have further complained of being ambushed by a process for the factional ballot in which a three-day nominations period was followed immediately by the start of voting.
The second place on the ticket, which is reserved to the dominant Labor Forum sub-faction of the Right, has been retained by incumbent Chris Ketter. The cancellation of the party membership vote saw off any threat from rival nominee Pat O’Neill, former army major and candidate for Brisbane in 2016, although he was reportedly unlikely to win in any case. Number three goes to Frank Gilbert, a former Mackay councillor and candidate for Dawson in 2016, and a member of the Old Guard sub-faction of the Right.
• Matthew Denholm of The Australian reports Tasmanian Labor’s union establishment has again lined up against Lisa Singh for Senate preselection, undeterred by the success of a below-the-line voting campaign in overturning her demotion at the 2016 election. Singh will presumably dominate the party member component of the vote, but is reportedly unlikely to do any better than the loseable third position. This is because the dominant Left wants places for an incumbent, Carol Brown, and John Short, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union official for whom Singh was relegated in 2016, while the Right is defending incumbent Catryna Bilyk.
• Tasmania’s Liberals are also conducting their Senate preselection vote on Saturday, and there are suggestions they too may repeat unhappy history from 2016. Richard Colbeck is again under pressure from conservative forces associated with Senator Eric Abetz, despite having almost matched Lisa Singh’s feat after being dumped to number five in 2016. He found his way back in the recount that followed Stephen Parry’s disqualification in November, and was promoted last week to the outer ministry, making him the only Tasmanian at that level of seniority. Brett Worthington at the ABC reports conservatives want the top position to go to Brett Whiteley, veteran of three winning and three losing campaigns at both federal and state level in Braddon, or alternatively to a woman. Further demotion beyond that would be particularly remarkable for Colbeck, as he is the only one of the four Tasmanian Liberal Senators facing re-election, the others having scored six-year terms. The other nominees for the preselection were detailed in an earlier instalment.