As the major parties move forward with candidate selection for Fadden, state by-elections now loom in Victoria and Western Australia.
There are now three by-elections in the pipeline, one federal and two state:
• The Gold Coast Bulletin reports a Liberal National Party preselection vote for the July 25 Fadden by-election this weekend has attracted five candidates: the reputed front-runner, Cameron Caldwell; two widely noted rivals with strong support in Dinesh Palipana and Fran Ward; and apparent dark horses in Owen Caterer, who boasts “a long career in wealth management” including a decade working in China, and Craig Hobart. Labor is now committed to fielding a candidate, after earlier reports that Anthony Albanese would prefer to forfeit, with David Crowe of the Age/Herald reporting that the candidate from 2022, Letitia Del Fabbro, was “seen as the leading contender”.
• In Victoria, Liberal MP Ryan Smith announced his resignation on Wednesday, initiating a by-election in his eastern suburbs seat of Warrandyte, which he retained at the November election by 4.2% with a slight favourable swing. This has yielded the stimulating possibility of a return to politics for Tim Smith, who tested over double the legal blood alcohol limit in 2021 after crashing his car into the side of a house in Hawthorn, and abandoned his seat of Kew at the election. Smith had won favour with conservatives for the vehemence of his attacks on Daniel Andrews during the Melbourne lockdowns, and has presumably continued to do so as a regular on Sky News. His comments professing an interest in the seat were implicitly critical of party leader John Pesutto, who says he would “very much like to see a woman in amongst the candidates”. Between reports in The Age and The Guardian, five such are mentioned: Caroline Inge, one of the party’s federal vice-presidents and a “former staffer and political ally” of Smith; Sarah Overton, a director at KPMG; Michelle Kleinert, a Manningham councillor; Nicole Werner, a former Pentecostal pastor who ran at the election in Box Hill; and Ranjana Srivastava, an oncologist who was recently fortunate to be overlooked for the Aston preselection. The Guardian reports the by-election is “expected to be held between 5 August and 30 September”.
• The West Australian reports three Labor preselection candidates have emerged as potential successors to Mark McGowan in his surely unloseable southern Perth seat of Rockingham. These are Matt Dixon, who was the party’s state secretary in 2018 and 2019, and has more recently been a staffer to Stephen Dawson, Emergency Services Minister and a prominent figure in the AMWU sub-faction of the Left; Clem Chan, state president of the United Professional Firefighters Union; and Magenta Marshall, a locally based party official. However, there is said to be concern that Dixon’s candidacy would be “a distraction” due to the circumstances of his departure as state secretary, which followed controversy over the use of funds raised by state parliamentarians on the 2019 federal campaign, and Marshall is quoted saying she is “not sure it’s my time”. Electoral commissioner Robert Kennedy tells The West Australian the by-election is likely to be in late June or July.
Also of note:
• Maria Kovacic, who stood aside as the party’s state president to contest the preselection, won a Liberal Party ballot on the weekend to fill the late Jim Molan’s New South Wales Senate vacancy. Kovacic prevailed in the final round over Andrew Constance, former state government minister and unsuccessful candidate for Gilmore at last year’s election, by 287 votes to 243. Kovacic’s win means a seat formerly held by a factional conservative now goes to a moderate. Constance, who is also a moderate, gained some support from conservatives by promising to abandon the seat at the next federal election for another run in Gilmore, which is still considered likely to do. Anthony Galloway of the Sydney Morning Herald reports the seat would likely have stayed with the right if Dallas McInerney, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW, had nominated, but in the event the only right nominee was Jess Collins, who narrowly failed to make the final round. Earlier exclusions were Space Industry Association chief executive James Brown, former Lindsay MP Fiona Scott and Shepherd Centre executive David Brady.
• An analysis by former Labor Senator John Black of Australian Development Strategies in the Financial Review identifies Labor’s targets to regain lost primary votes as working families on $100,000 to $150,000 a year, “digitally disrupted families” on $50,000 to $100,000, parents with children at state schools, and Christians who have supported Labor only under the leadership of Kevin Rudd; and the Coalition’s as white migrants, defectors in the teal seats, professional women on more than $150,000 a year, and professionals and the 35-to-50 age cohort.
• Rhianna Down of The Australian reports Anthony Albanese told colleagues on Tuesday that Labor’s target Liberal-held seats for the next election are Canning, Moore, Bass, Braddon, Banks, Menzies and Sturt, though presumably hopes for the first two have taken a knock with Mark McGowan’s resignation.
• Charlotte Varcoe of Border Watch reports Liberal MP Tony Pasin won a preselection ballot for his South Australian seat of Barker with 284 votes against 58 for Katherine McBride, who owns grazing property with husband Nick McBride, the state member for MacKillop.