Judi Moylan’s got all the attention, but there’s another newsworthy preselection in the West – the challenge to Dennis Jensen in the safe seat of Tangney in inner suburban Perth.

Moylan’s had plenty of s-xy stuff – crossing the floor over refugees while facing a challenge from a former One Nation candidate in a seat far removed from Liberals for Forest territory in Nedlands and Claremont – but what happens in Tangney will also be watched by people who want pols to be more than ciphers.

Jensen has a different background to most MPs. He’s a former defence scientist with a PhD. He’s spoken out on issues like the troubled Joint Strike Fighter and pushed nuclear power. That’s caused some controversy. The West Australian quoted one Jensen opponent saying his nuclear stance has exposed him as a “one-issue polly who doesn’t have a political brain in his head”.

Others would beg to disagree – including, it seems, the Prime Minister. Much has been made in the preselection of a letter from John Howard to the Liberals’ WA director, Mark Neeham, where the PM says: “His particular expertise as a research scientist is much valued by his colleagues… Dennis’s detailed technical knowledge on scientific issues is a rare commodity in Parliament. Dennis has also been active in the important community debate about nuclear energy – a role I have encouraged him to take up – because he has genuine expertise in that area”.

Jensen is being challenged by two former Liberal Party advisers, Matt Brown and Robert Reid. They are more than competent candidates. I’ve worked with both of them and like them. But they’re also candidates from central casting – journalists turned political professionals.

Jensen isn’t. He brings different skills and different insights to the Parliament. Not only that: he actually seems prepared to do something with them. In public. Does that mean he’s naìve – or doing his job properly?

The Tangney Liberal preselectors will decide tonight. Both sitting members found support yesterday from a fellow Liberal MP, member for Moore Mal Washer, who said they were proven hard workers. “They are excellent performers in Canberra as well as in their electorates and our party needs those kind of people,” he said.