Reports of the Liberal Party preselections conducted in Victoria last
weekend have focused on the most controversial seat, Mount Waverley,
where Michael Gidley narrowly defeated former MP Maree Davenport
(formerly Maree Luckins). This was a victory, although perhaps a Pyrrhic
one, for the controlling Kroger-Costello forces; Paul Austin in The Age
reported that they “are determined to inject new blood into the
parliamentary party at the election in November next year.” But the
reason Mount Waverley was so bitter was that Doyle had intervened to
protect his old blood, preventing Gidley from challenging sitting
seat-warmer Kim Wells in Scoresby and backing him for Mount Waverley
instead.

Preselections were also held in Ferntree Gully and Kilsyth, and in each
case the Kroger-Costello candidate lost out. Richard Allsop, a
long-time Kroger ally, was defeated in Kilsyth by local mayor David
Hodgett, while in Ferntree Gully Emanuele Cicchiello, a more recent
convert (he was formerly an anti-Kroger Young Liberal president), was
beaten by his fellow Knox councillor Nick Wakeling.

That’s one out of three for the ruling group – so much for their
supposedly iron-fisted control of the Victorian division. On the other
hand, it could just confirm the thesis of critics like Joy Howley, who
accuse them of being fixed on the Costello-for-PM campaign to the
exclusion of everything else.

All three seats have margins of between 2-3%, so they
have to be won not just for the Liberals to win government (which
no-one thinks is possible this time around) but for them to regain
credibility at state level. Against new Labor incumbents it will not be
an easy task.

Peter Fray

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