I’ve been a bit lax in keeping up on federal preselection developments of late, which have naturally been gathering pace as the big event gets closer. To keep things manageable, I will focus in this post on developments in New South Wales, which is where most of the action has been.
Things have been particularly lively in the Liberal camp, where Scott Morrison finds himself in the thick of factional warfare between his centre right faction and its principal numbers man, Mitchell MP Alex Hawke, and an alliance of the moderate and the hard right factions. As Mike Steketee at the Saturday Paper relates, the latter have accused the former of obstructing the process so as to avoid rank-and-file ballots that may not go their way, potentially endangering Hawke himself. Steketee reports expectations that the end game will be a deal that leaves all sitting members undisturbed, with ballots to proceed in a number of important seats where it may have been prudent to have had candidates in place quite a bit sooner.
• Jim O’Rourke of the Daily Telegraph reports the failure of Scott Morrison’s seemingly desperate attempt to recruit Gladys Berejiklian in Warringah leaves Jane Buncle, a “high-flying junior barrister who believes in climate change”, as the favourite to run against independent Zali Steggall. However, James Massola of the Sydney Morning Herald reported party polling tested the prospects of Berejiklian, Buncle, former Premier Mike Baird and management consultant Alex Dore (who according to the Telegraph is still considering running), and found only Berejiklian would win the seat.
• In a particularly helpful account of the broader state of play, Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph reports three candidates have nominated in Parramatta, which the party is hopeful of knocking over with the retirement after 17 years of Labor member Julie Owens. These are Maria Kovacic, co-founder of Western Sydney Women; Felicity Findlay, acquisitions manager for property investment firm Merc Capital; and Charles Camenzuli, engineer and unsuccessful candidate for the seat in 2010 and 2019. Silmaris notes the party has extended nominations in the hope that a stronger candidate might come forward. Former Parramatta councillor Martin Zaiter is “being wooed”; efforts to interest Geoff Lee, who holds the state seat of Parramatta, have come to nothing.
• One of the preselection challenges Alex Hawke is keen to head off is that against Environment Minister Sussan Ley in Farrer, where she is threatened by Christian Ellis, a public relations specialist who has made a name locally campaigning for water rights. Linda Silmaris’s report says “Mr Ellis’s supporters believe their candidate has the numbers, triggering panic among those backing Ms Ley”.
• Hawkesbury councillor Sarah Richards has been preselected to run against Labor member Susan Templeman in Macquarie, where she fell short by 371 votes on her first attempt in 2019.
On the other side of the aisle:
• Sarah Martin of The Guardian offers a revealing account of the complex state of play in Labor’s preselection for Parramatta. Local branches are dominated by the soft left faction associated with Laurie Ferguson, which duly favours a rank-and-file ballot. However, the faction is split between supporters Julia Finn, member for the state seat of Granville, and Durga Owen, criminal lawyer and Western Sydney University lecturer, neither of whom are “seen as acceptable to the federal executive”. This would appear to include Anthony Albanese, who may be about to sanction a push for the executive to take matters into its own hands due to familiar concerns about branch stacking. Albanese’s own branch of the Left favours Abha Devasia, legal director of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union. However, the Right seemingly wants in as well, demanding compensation for the selection of the unaligned Daniel Repacholi to replace Joel Fitzgibbon in Hunter.
• Also noted in Sarah Martin’s article is that a rank-and-file ballot to choose Sharon Bird’s successor in Cunningham is expected to be won by Alison Byrnes, a staffer to Bird and the wife of state MP Paul Scully.
• Labor’s candidate for Lindsay, which Melissa McIntosh won for the Liberals from Labor in 2019, will be Trevor Ross, a firefighter of 36 years.