Star – as opposed to celebrity – candidates should be assisted into parliament, even if they are not party members, according to Bruce Hawker in last Friday’s Australian.

His musings occurred to the background of reports that Maxine McKew had been offered the western Sydney seat of Fowler. It is reported she was not keen to move from Mosman, where she lives with harbour glimpses, to camp out in the west, which is hot and dusty and lacks views.

In the past Labor has offered star candidates not just safe seats – like Kingsford Smith to Peter Garrett – but marginals like St George (former diplomat Bill Morrison in ’72), Hume (public servant, media and businessman John Menadue in ’69), Dawson (agricultural expert Rex Patterson in ’69) and Bob Whan (agricultural economist in Eden Monaro in ’72).

All but Menadue won – because they were star candidates, worked hard, and the electorates appreciated their talents.

At present there is just such a marginal awaiting a star candidate: Eden Monaro, the seat which has for the past 50 or so years always been held by the government.

There are stunning locations to live in the electorate, ranging from the NSW snowfields to rolling green hills, historic Eden, the sparkling waters of Bateman’s Bay and the Sapphire Coast. The coastal areas are part of one of the most pleasant, temperate climates in the world and close to Canberra. Even Queanbeyan has some great real estate with to-die-for views of neighbouring Canberra and the Parliamentary Spire glinting to the backdrop of the Brindabellas.

Preselections for Eden Monaro have been inexplicably postponed, which is strange when the federal election could be just seven months away. You would have thought that to win the seat, a candidate should be out campaigning strongly now.

But perhaps someone is: the word is that NSW head office has held off preselections so that in the event of State Labor member for Monaro, Steve Whan (Bob’s son), being defeated – as is likely – he can keep the runners on and continue campaigning as the federal ALP candidate.

But what sort of message does that send to the good voters of Eden Monaro? You dump him in March, and Labor expects you to vote for a loser federally six or seven months later?

A far better option would be to select a star candidate – McKew – to run for the seat. It would show the NSW ALP was taking Eden Monaro, and the task of winning government federally, seriously.

Peter Phelps, Chief of Staff to the Special Minister of State and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, writes: If Maxine McKew wants to run for Eden-Monaro, all I can say is “bring it on!” I can think of nothing better to ensure Gary Nairn’s re-election than parachuting in a left-wing, middle-class ex-journalist from Mosman into our part of the world. I’m sure that she’ll go down an absolute treat with the Bega loggers, the Queanbeyan motor mechanics, the Cooma cockies, the Tumut paper-mill workers and the Narooma fishermen! Seriously, it isn’t going to happen – however much Ms Stoyles and I would like it to be true. Labor hasn’t picked anyone for Eden-Monaro for one simple reason: it hasn’t got a credible candidate. Jim Snow (from 1996) is too old. Steve Whan got back-slammed by Nairn in both 1998 and 2001, and not even Labor is going to risk a two-time loser (cf. Kim Beazley), and a three-time loser if you count his abortive run for an ACT Assembly seat in 1995. Kel Watt did even worse in 2004 and has been “missing in action” in the electorate since election day. He’s got zero media in three years. Moreover, it’s widely known that he couldn’t hack the pace of campaigning in 2004 and Sussex Street was pretty peeved by his (lack of) work ethic. Now he’s off as a PR flack for the downtrodden proletariat of the Australian Medical Association. So who’s left? There are rumours of a certain prominent Canberra trade union lackey running for the seat – pity about the fact that he doesn’t even live in Eden-Monaro. Oh, and a word in your shell-like, mate: don’t enrol at the house of a couple of Labor staffers and think that you can get away with rorting the electoral roll, especially when we know that you are living with your wife and kids in Hume. Poor ol’ Labor – it’s a pretty barren field for the bruvvers down here. Maybe “Sista Maxi” is their great white hope after all!

Kelvin Watt writes: Phelps’s response to the article is laughable and his attack on me was so ridiculous that I initially thought it might have actually been submitted by some unknown prepubescent Young Lib having a bit of a gee-up! The copy of the Eden-Monaro Liberal Party campaign team minutes describing me as “the hardest working Labor candidate in NSW” and recognising my high media profile, coupled with various independent political blogs that talked up my media profile and “furious campaigning”, would seem to contradict his claims. Perhaps if he spent more time reading the local Eden-Monaro newspapers and listening to the radio, rather than running his own failed campaign for the NSW Upper House, he might have a better idea about what’s running in local media. Even State Liberal Member for Bega was moved to stand up in the NSW Parliament last August and say that Kel Watt was running all around the countryside. And gosh Peter, recent Liberal Party polling seemed very interested in gaining people’s perceptions of me. How gutless and scared Phelps must be to have a crack at me personally and politically. Phelps’s insecurities and inadequacies he put on display for all Crikey readers gave us a good giggle. What a small, petty, fearful little man. What are the odds he drives a convertible car to compensate for his (political) impotence. Doesn’t he have something better to do than respond to the musings of former government staffers from the 1970s? Isn’t there a Ministerial Office to run and some sort of rorts, er, I mean entitlements, to finalise? So Peter Phelps, thanks for the compliment. Thanks for the confidence boost – all you’ve done is convince me that my 2004 campaign really did rattle you and Mr Nairn, and that you’re terrified I’m going to go that one bit better in a few months. But still, I have to admire Phelps’s commitment to Liberal Party campaign strategy – tell a lie, then repeat it, and hope that eventually people begin to believe it. If I was really “missing in action”, why would he bother to write, let alone drop my name? What a goose.