News concerning the March 25 state election continues to fly thick and fast, mainly in the form of preselection spats, retirement announcements and party resignations. As you can see from the accumulated backlog below, all of it from the month-and-a-bit since I last did this, it might be an idea for me to do these update posts more often. Anyway, without further ado:
• David Elliott, Transport Minister and Liberal member for Baulkham Hills, announced last week that he will retire at the election after conceding defeat in a long and fraught preselection dispute. Baulkham Hills is to be abolished in the redistribution and superseded by Kellyville, although much of its territory is being transferred to Castle Hill, held by Elliott’s friend and centre right faction associate Ray Williams. The redrawn Castle Hill’s branches are dominated by factional conservatives, who strongly favour the claim of Noel McCoy, Norton Rose Fulbright partner and former ministerial adviser. However, Elliott had been set on running in Castle Hill to avoid lining up against Williams, who is set to contest Kellyville. Dominic Perrottet backed Elliott to the extent of helping secure a waiver from state executive to overcome an administrative difficulty arising from a short lapse in his party membership, but conservative powerbrokers refused to yield to Elliott’s efforts to prevent McCoy from running. It was reported that Perrottet urged Elliott to try his hand in Parramatta, a marginal seat to be vacated with the retirement of Geoff Lee, but Elliott did not believe he could win preselection there either as it too was dominated by factional conservatives. Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph reports McCoy does not face a clear run in Castle Hill, with rival contenders including Monica Tudehope, deputy chief-of-staff to Dominic Perrottet and daughter of Finance Minister Damien Tudehope; Julian Whealing, former chief-of-staff to Tudehope; and Mark Hodges, solicitor and The Hills deputy mayor.
• Further high-profile additions to the retirement list are Health Minister Brad Hazzard in Wakefield and Infrastructure and Cities Minister Rob Stokes in Pittwater. Both seats have been mentioned as possibilities for the lower house ambitions of Legislative Council member Natasha Maclaren-Jones. It was initially anticipated she would seek preselection in Pittwater, with James O’Doherty of the Daily Telegraph reporting that moderate factional support was consolidating behind her, in part out of considerations for gender balance. However, the Northern Beaches Advocate reports she has has grown concerned about the strength of support for rival contender Rory Amon, a Northern Beaches councillor, and might run in Wakehurst instead. Others mentioned in relation to Wakehurst include David Walton, retired police commander and veteran Northern Beaches councillor; Wendy Finianos, Lebanese-born former Warringah Chamber of Commerce president who challenged Hazzard for preselection before the 2019 election; and Toby Williams, electorate officer to Hazzard.
• The Labor member for Bankstown, Tania Mihailuk, resigned from the party on October 20, a month after being dumped from the shadow ministry after using parliamentary privilege to lambast Khal Asfour over his business links to Eddie Obeid. Her announcement came shortly after Asfour won preselection to the party’s Legislative Council ticket, on which more below. Mihailuk had been at the centre of a preselection impasse that looked likely to shunt her to Fairfield, where local mayor Frank Carbone appears to be preparing an independent run after serving as a prime mover behind Dai Le’s successful campaign in the corresponding federal seat of Fowler. Such an arrangement would allow Fairfield MP Guy Zangari to move to Cabramatta, which is being vacated with the retirement of Nick Lalich, and Jihad Dib to move to Bankstown from his abolished seat of Lakemba. Alexandra Smith of the Sydney Morning Herald had earlier reported speculation among Labor MPs that Mihailuk might join One Nation, prompting Mark Latham to hail her as a “talented western Sydney MP” to whom his party would be receptive (more on that below too).
• Any plan to move Guy Zangari to Cabramatta may hit trouble from rival aspirant Kate Hoang, state vice-president of the Vietnamese Community of Australia, who is pointedly demanding a democratic process for the preselection. Hoang nonetheless supported Kristina Keneally in her unsuccessful run for Fowler in May and, according to Paul Brescia of Fairfield Advance, was deposed as national president of the Vietnamese Community of Australia as a result.
UPDATE: It’s been pointed out to me that Zangari did in fact announce his impending retirement two weeks ago. The Guardian reports “senior Labor figures have been testing local support for Tu Le, the Vietnamese-Australian lawyer who was controversially pushed aside to allow Keneally to run in Fowler in May, to run in either Cabramatta or Fairfield”.
• Jamie Parker, who has held Balmain for the Greens since 2011, has announced he will not seek re-election. This opens an opportunity for Labor, whose candidate will be Inner West councillor Philippa Scott, to recover what used to be a safe seat. The Sydney Morning Herald reports the Greens candidate is likely to be another Inner West councillor, Kobi Shetty. Ben Raue at the Tally Room commences on the to-this-point unusual circumstance of a Greens incumbent vacating their seat.
• The front-runner to succeed retiring Liberal member Shelley Hancock in South Coast would appear to be Luke Sikora, a charity worker and former chief-of-staff to Hancock in her capacity as Local Government Minister. Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph reports that Sikora has the numbers to prevail over Jemma Tribe, a charity operator and former Family First candidate backed by Alex Hawke and the centre right faction, despite ongoing concerns about gender balance.
• Michael McGowan of The Guardian reports Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons, who made an unsuccessful bid to move to the federal seat of Hughes in May, faces an “uphill battle” to retain preselection ahead of former Liverpool deputy mayor Tina Ayyad, who is withstanding pressure to withdraw.
• Recently emerged independent candidates of a teal-ish bent include Karen Freyer, a former staffer to Kerryn Phelps when she was on Sydney City Council, in Vaucluse, which is being vacated with the retirement of Liberal member Gabrielle Upton.
• Murray Trembath of the St George & Sutherland Shire Leader reports Labor’s preselection for Heathcote will be contested by high school teacher and former world champion triathlete Mick Maroney and the candidate at the previous two elections, Maryanne Stuart.
• Linda Silmalis of the Daily Telegraph reports local Liberal branches are in revolt over suggestions “some bosses” want Drummoyne to be contested by Legislative Council member Scott Farlow. The seat is held by John Sidoti, a former Liberal who is now an independent after run-ins with ICAC over his property dealings.
• A report in The Australian on October 10 that cited multiple Nationals MPs saying the party’s efforts to retake Barwon from Shooters Fishers and Farmer MP Roy Butler were foolhardy given the pressure the party was under in its existing seats. Upper Hunter is felt at risk of falling to Labor, Shooters or One Nation, and Myall Lakes, Oxley and Clarence are all considered doubtful due to the retirement of sitting members. The party’s campaign for Barwon was complicated when Broken Hill councillor Dave Gallagher withdrew as candidate days after his preselection in September, complaining he did not have the support of party office.
• The Nationals candidate for Myall Lakes will be Tanya Thompson, electorate officer to retiring member Stephen Bromhead. The Forbes Advocate reports the party has preselected Orange councillor Tony Mileto for Orange, which is held for Shooters Fishers and Farmers by Phil Donato.
Legislative Council news:
• Labor’s state conference a fortnight ago determined the order of the Legislative Council ticket as follows: Courtney Houssos (Right), Rose Jackson (Left), Cameron Murphy (Left, formally – more on that shortly), Emily Suvaal (Right), John Graham (Left), Stephen Lawrence (Right), Khal Asfour (Right) and Sarah Kaine (Right). The big turn-up here was the success of Cameron Murphy, barrister and son of Whitlam government Attorney-General and controversial High Court justice Lionel Murphy, was elected on a breakaway ticket after the Left excluded his backers in the CFMEU from its own ballot. This resulted in front-bencher Mick Veitch being dumped from the ticket, and Kaine getting a less secure spot than the Left had anticipated. Murphy’s ticket had backing from the Health Services Union and Electrical Trades Union as well as the CFMEU, all of whom are now factionally unaligned, and scored 14.2% of the vote to the Right ticket’s 55.3% and the Left’s 26.3%. Ben Raue at the Tally Room has a detailed post on the method of proportional representation used by Labor to select its Legislative Council ticket and, more specifically, the order of the ticket. The issues concerned reflect those surrounding the method by which short- and long-term Senate seats are allocated after double dissolution elections, for which the theoretically sound method would be to conduct multiple counts with a different number of winners in each count, but the preferred method is to allocate the ranking by order of election from a single count.
• Mark Latham has hatched a plan to quit his Legislative Council seat and run again at the March election. Ostensibly this is to “renew his mandate”, but the idea appears to be for a new One Nation member to fill his immediate vacancy and boost the party’s prospects of again winning two seats at the election, which would boost its representation from two to four. Notwithstanding talk of Tania Mihailuk moving to the party, Latham ruled out her filling his casual vacancy.
• Fred Nile will bow out at the election at the age of 88 after a career going back to 1981. His wife, Silvana Nile, will run to succeed him, presumably as the candidate of the presently unregistered Seniors United Party, with which Nile is aligned. His former party, the Christian Democratic Party, was wound up in March amid internal fighting and declining membership.