As a loyal Crikey contributor, I duly
trotted out the party line on Virginia Trioli’s ABC Victoria program
yesterday that Pru Goward aspired to relieve Alby Schultz of his seat
of Hume. Quick as a flash,Trioli ordered her producers to seek a
response from Goward, and within five minutes she was relaying to her
100,000-plus listeners at 5:50pm that the Sex Discrimination
Commissioner was not interested in nominating for the seat and was
happy to see out the final two years of her term.

Well, she
would say that. And what happens in two years? There will be an
election and Pru Goward will have just turned 55 and won’t have
anything to do, unless John Howard appoints her to some other paying
gig. There has undoubtedly been some kite-flying in Hume by Goward and
her husband David Barnett, John Howard’s biographer. But the fact
remains that she wouldn’t stand a snowflake’s chance in hell of
knocking off Alby Schultz in a contested pre-selection, so she may as
well downplay the prospect as Alby’s Easter message was that pretenders
to his throne have a long wait ahead of them.

The other theory
that Crikey floated with Virginia Trioli last night was that Alby’s
game plan was to retire on a higher parliamentary pension. If John
Howard won’t make him a parliamentary secretary then he may as well
change camps, wait for Peter Costello to become prime minister, enjoy a
couple of years as a parliamentary secretary on a higher salary as a
reward and then go out with an increased indexed pension for the rest
of his days.

Alby was elected in 1998 and has just won his third
election, so that means he is eligible for a pension at the next
election, as he will be over 60 (he’ll be 68). If he serves another
term (to age 71), his pension increases by 7.5%. His pension is
increased by 6.25% times the ministerial allowance times years of
service if he servces as a parliamentary secretary.

And Alby is not just talking about a short-term reward for loyalty.
He’s looking for a long-term boost to his retirement income, something
that incoming MPs won’t have access to thanks to Mark Latham. And those
who aspire to replace him will now probably have to wait until 2010, by
which time Pru Goward will be approaching 60.

Meanwhile, our anonymous tips box received this missive yesterday:

Schultz is a divisive character but a hardworking local member. He is
as Right as Attilla the Hun but that’s what many of his constituents
want. His wife Gloria is a considerable asset. She stood for the state
seat of Burrinjuck when Alby went to Canberra but was beaten by the
Nats’ Katrina Hodgkinson. Local is a big word around here and both Alby
and Katrina have that claim.

If Pru Goward either beats Alby for pre-selection or tries to succeed him on retirement she will be either:

  • Beaten by Alby as an independent on Nat preferences; or
  • Beaten by a Nat on Alby’s preferences (if he stood as an independent);or
  • Beaten by the Nats who can stand in a three-horse race with no sitting member.

This is independent country – look at Peter Andren in the adjoining seat of Calare.