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Pre-Selection Contests Occupying Attention Of Major Parties

With the next Federal election due in 18 months time, the major parties are engaged in the process of pre-selecting candidates.

Recent developments include:

Throsby

Former ACTU President, Jennie George, has finally been guaranteed a seat in Parliament with the decision by the NSW ALP State Conference over the weekend to give her endorsement for Throsby.

George was the first woman leader of the union movement between 1995 and earlier this year. She had unsuccessfully sought a seat in the NSW Legislative Council and was asked to contest MacArthur (see below), but held out for Throsby, currently held by Collin Hollis with a margin of 22.46%.

The factional deal over George also secures the positions of idiosyncratic former shadow minister Mark Latham (Werriwa) and Julia Irwin (Fowler).

George is the fourth ACTU President in the past 20 years to move to Federal Parliament, following in the footsteps of Bob Hawke (Wills), Simon Crean (Hotham) and Martin Ferguson (Batman).

Macarthur and Hume

Finance Minister John Fahey’s electorate of Macarthur, which he won from Labor in 1996 and currently holds with a margin of 5.63%, has become notionally a 3% Labor seat following a redistribution in NSW.

Fahey is seeking endorsement for Hume, currently held by the Liberal Party’s Alby Schultz by 8.06%. Schultz won the seat from the National Party in 1998, following the retirement of John Sharp.

Both Fahey’s and Schultz’s homes are now in each other’s electorates. There is some concern in the Liberal Party that Schultz could contest the seat as an independent if he loses pre-selection. There is also concern that the party could lose both seats if Fahey walks away from Macarthur. Complicating things is the possibility that Liberal and National candidates could fight each other in both Hume and neighbouring Farrer where Tim Fischer is due to retire. Three-cornered contests are debilitating for both parties, eating up campaign resources. This would be especially true if One Nation or independent candidates were to run in the seats.

Isaacs

Speculation about the future of the Labor member for Isaacs, Greg Wilton, is now less muted and a resignation is expected sometime soon. The ALP’s affirmative action policy which requires 35% of candidates in winnable seats to be women is resulting in pressure for Labor women such as Natalie Sykes from the Right and Jill Hennessy from the Left. Julie Warren and Rachel Dapiran, both with strong union links, are also being mentioned.

Casey

The ALP has relaxed its rules restricting candidates over the age of 65 from contesting elections and endorsed David McKenzie, 67, for the seat held by Health Minister Michael Wooldridge by 4.87%.

McKenzie was the ALP member for Diamond Valley between 1972 and 1975 during the term of the Whitlam Government.

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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