The Victorian ALP’s preselection fracas just keeps getting worse; this
morning Gavan O’Connor, the member for Corio under threat from, in Matt Price’s words, “the forces of darkness or renewal – take your pick”, put the boots
into Kim Beazley for failing to protect him and his colleagues: “I
think the leader would appreciate more than anybody else that if you
don’t give loyalty, you don’t get it”. Almost unnoticed by contrast,
the Victorian Liberal Party has started on its federal preselections.

Part of Labor’s problem comes from trying to do state and federal
preselections at the same time, even though the elections are about a
year apart. The Liberals chose not to make that mistake; only when state preselections are mostly over have they opened nominations for the first set of federal seats, namely the 16 that they currently hold.

Even though no federal election is due until late next year, it makes
sense to start the process early so that it doesn’t interfere with the
state election campaign. But nominations in these 16 seats will close
on 22 March, just two and a half weeks before the Party’s state council
elects new office-bearers – which must surely influence some people’s
career plans. Would a delay of three weeks really have disrupted things
that much?

Then again, there shouldn’t be much controversy with these seats.
Opportunities for “renewal” or factional power-plays are limited; the
only likely retirement is Stewart McArthur, member for Corangamite (age
68, in parliament since 1984), who would almost certainly be challenged
if he tried to stay on. None of the other MPs are over 60, and although
there are periodic grumblings about several of them (notably David
Hawker in Corio and Petro Georgiou in Kooyong), no serious challenges
are expected.

The main reason the Liberals have an easier time of it is that at a
federal level they are actually going forwards. There may even be
interest this time around in Labor-held marginals, some of which are
now eminently winnable. Whereas none of Labor’s star recruits show any
enthusiasm for taking on a Liberal-held seat.

Peter Fray

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