A lion of the Left and a long-term electorate officer have emerged as candidates to replace departing Brumby government ministers Peter Batchelor and Bob Cameron, Crikey can reveal.
Bronwyn Halfpenny, the daughter of the late militant unionist John Halfpenny, has emerged as the front-running candidate to replace the veteran Batchelor in the ultra-safe state seat of Thomastown, senior ALP sources say. And long-term Cameron electorate officer Maree Edwards, dual president of the Bendigo branch and the Bendigo federal electorate area, will be angling for her boss’ job after he also pulled the pin this morning.
Edwards had previously signalled her intention to nominate for the a Northern Victoria slot in the Legislative Council at the November 27 poll but said her nomination would now be withdrawn.
“I’m putting my hand up”, the genial 11-year veteran confirmed to Crikey early this afternoon. She said she had a “brief discussion very early this morning” with the boss, but cautioned there was still water to pass under the bridge, given the departure had just been announced.
Halfpenny, who previously declared her interest in the Altona by-election in February following the resignation of Lynne Kosky, is an industrial and campaigns officer at Victorian Trades Hall and a member of the blue-collar Workers First faction. She was previously the secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union’s food and confectionery division. Halfpenny was not returning calls this morning.
Cameron holds Bendigo West by 10.9% and Edwards would be likely to easily hold the seat given the lingering goodwill for the Brumby government in regional Victoria. Thomastown is currently held by the ALP by 31.7%, making it the second-safest Labor seat in the state behind Broadmeadows.
In the ministerial reshuffle announced this morning, Sports Minister James Merlino is set to take on the portfolios of Police and Corrections from Cameron, while Cameron will continue as the emergency services minister to complete work around bushfire reconstruction. Batchelor will continue on as minister for energy and resources and the arts until the election.
While Batchelor’s resignation was a long-time in the making and widely expected throughout the party, the 47-year-old Cameron, who has sometimes struggled with the media angle to his job despite being a solid parliamentary performer, was expected to saddle up for another four years.
Formal decisions on Halfpenny and Edwards’ tilts are expected to be made by the ALP by the middle of next week.