Federal preselection season is in full swing, at least in some parts of the country. Three big Victorian Liberal contests are coming to the boil following the departure of sitting members in safe seats, while one Labor-held seat has produced a substantial challenge against a sitting member. The action in New South Wales and Queensland is in stasis pending redistributions which will be finalised early next year, although some preliminary jockeying has been under way. Things seem fairly quiet in South Australia and Western Australia, the latter situation prompting a spray at the Liberals from Peter van Onselen in The Australian, who complains about the apparent security of tenure for the state party’s bloated retinue of ageing backbenchers (only the relatively youthful Dennis Jensen in Tangney faces a challenge). Beyond that, there’s one item of news to report from Tasmania.

The Age reports Victorian Liberal deputy director Daniel Tehan has resigned his position to contest preselection for Wannon, to be vacated at the next election by David Hawker. Tehan is the son of the late Marie Tehan, who was among other things Health Minister in the Kennett government. His confirmed opponents will include Louise Staley, former state party vice-president and Institute of Public Affairs agriculture policy expert; Rod Nockles, Howard government adviser and runner-up in the recent preselection for the less desirable prospect of Corangamite; Elizabeth Matuschka, a University of Ballarat administrator who ran unsuccessfully in Ballarat at the 2004 federal election and for Ballarat City Council last November; Matt Makin, a Corangamite councillor; Katrina Rainsford, a Southern Grampians councillor; and Hugh Koch, whom the Warrnambool Standard tells us is a Southern Grampians tourism manager. David McKenzie of the Weekly Times reports that former Victorian Farmers Federation president Simon Ramsay, recently unsuccessful in bids for Corangamite and a position on the board of the National Farmers Federation, has decided against nominating and will instead seek a state upper house berth in Western Victoria. Andrew Landeryou at VexNews has also named as possibilities “complicated Costello loyalist” Georgie Crozier and former police sergeant and anti-corruption crusader Simon Illingworth. UPDATE: The Age says the closure of nominations has produced 10 candidates, which includes “company director Stephen Mitchell”.

• Nicholas McGowan, former adviser to state Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, has put his hand up to succeed the outgoing Chris Pearce as the Liberal candidate for Aston. Also in the field are two Knox City councillors, Sue McMillan and Darren Pearce (respectively representing Dobson and Taylor wards). McMillan earlier stood for preselection in both Ferntree Gully and Monbulk ahead of the 2006 state election. The Knox Leader reports that former mayor Emanuele Cicciello “has been tipped to run but is remaining tight-lipped”. On July 1, the Herald Sun reported that names “yet to be confirmed” included “former Howard government adviser Alan Tudge and lawyer John Pesutto, who performed well in the recent Kooyong preselection battle”, but VexNews reports the latter assertion is “not correct”.

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Rick Wallace of The Australian reports that the preselection contest for Higgins is “being fought out between Kelly O’Dwyer, a former senior adviser to Mr Costello, and Institute of Public Affairs director Tim Wilson”, who respectively have the backing of the Kroger and Baillieu factions. Definitely out of the running are Institute of Public Affairs executive director John Roskam, Crosby Textor consultant Jason Aldworth and former state party director Julian Sheezel, which Andrew Landeryou at VexNews credits to gentle persuasion from Michael Kroger in support of O’Dwyer. No word lately on Tom Elliott, hedge fund manager and son of John.

• With Mal Brough frozen out of the running in Higgins and Aston, Andrew Landeryou at VexNews relates he is “apparently looking or waiting to be drafted”, which might yet occur when Fran Bailey vacates McEwen at the election after next (assuming she can hang on to her 27-vote margin).

• This weekend sees the local ALP preselection ballot take place for the safe Labor Melbourne seat of Calwell. Incumbent Maria Vamvakinou, a stalwart of Kim Carr’s sub-faction of the Left, faces a challenge from Andy Richards, Geelong councillor and official with the Left faction Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (metalworkers’ division). The ballot accounts for half the overall vote, the other half being determined by the party’s Public Office Selection Committee. According to Rick Wallace of The Australian, Richards could secure support from the Right faction National Union of Workers and Health Services Union – collectively known as the “Ambition Faction” – which forged alliances with the AMWU after being excluded from a “stability pact” between the Kim Carr Left and Bill Shorten and Stephen Conroy of the Right. Should this transpire, moves to heal the rift between the rival Right groupings could miscarry. Wallace reports that Richards also has support from “local Turks aligned with ALP identity and local councillor Burhan Yigit”. If support for Richards holds firm, Wallace says the decisive factors will be “local Kurds and a local Lebanese numbers man, Mohamad Abbouche”. As Andrew Landeryou of VexNews tells it, the former might be inclined to back Richards because they are angry that Kim Carr has failed to support Moreland councillor Enver Erdogan in the state preselection for Brunswick. Landeryou says the Ambition Faction is hopeful of securing as much as 60 per cent of the vote for Richards, but the Carr camp is “confident they’ll be able to snaffle at least 20 per cent of the vote back from pesky ethnic warlords who are pledged to support Richards”. UPDATE: See below.

• Nick Butterly of The West Australian says that while Dennis Jensen’s chances of surviving Saturday’s Liberal preselection ballot in Tangney have been boosted by the support of Malcolm Turnbull and “Perth business heavyweights”, Liberal insiders say he “still faces defeat in this Saturday’s ballot because of local concerns about his fundraising efforts and performance in Federal Parliament”. It is not stated which of his two opponents is considered the more formidable: Alcoa government relations manager Libby Lyons, or Toyota Finance executive Glenn Piggott. UPDATE: See below.

• The Launceston Examiner reports that the frontrunner for Liberal preselection in Bass, Brigadier Andrew Nikolic, has withdrawn citing family and work issues. The nomination is now likely to go to Steve Titmus, a former television newsreader.

• The Australian’s Strewth column is advised by a Liberal source that there is “absolutely no truth” to rumours Melanie Howard might contest preselection for Bennelong. Earlier reports suggested approaches to former state MPs Kerry Chikarovski and Andrew Tink had been rebuffed. Also mentioned a while back was former rugby union international Brett Papworth.

UPDATE (18/7/09): Via Frank Calabrese, we learn that ABC TV news in Perth reports that Glenn Piggott has defeated Dennis Jensen in the Tangney preselection vote. Remembering of course that Jensen also lost before the last election, only to have the result overturned on the intervention of John Howard. Meanwhile, Andrew Landeryou reports that Andy Richards has pulled out of the Calwell preselection, so there should be no problems now for Maria Vamvakinou – notwithstanding earlier reports that one Manfried Kriechbaum had also nominated as part of a campaign of mischief-making by state Keilor MP George Seitz.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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