Respected Slater & Gordon lawyer Andrew Giles is firming as the favourite to succeed Harry Jenkins as the ALP member for the federal seat of Scullin.
Giles, a former senior adviser to state MPs Lily D’Ambrosio and Gavin Jennings, will nominate for preselection for the Melbourne seat after Jenkins announced yesterday he would retire at the next election.
A senior Victorian head office source told Crikey that Giles had the “broad support of members in the electorate” and would “get a great deal of central support” from the party’s Public Office Selection Committee (POSC), which decides the other half of the preselection vote. He is not expected to encounter any substantial opposition in the northern suburbs fiefdom, which under a 2009 stability pact is reserved for the Socialist Left. Giles is the Left’s long-serving faction secretary and has been in the mix for a federal seat for some time.
Labor currently holds the ultra-safe seat by over 20% and Jenkins increased his margin amid a national collapse in the ALP vote at the 2010 election. The Jenkins family has had a hex on the region since Scullin was created in 1969 — Harry Jenkins Sr was its inaugural MP and was replaced at a byelection by his son after his retirement in 1986.
Jenkins, who turns 60 next month, said yesterday he was “very comfortable with the decision … I have no regrets about it”. The veteran backbencher famously quit as speaker in November as part of an ALP plan to insert Peter Slipper in the chair and shore up the government’s numbers. He was considered an outside chance at securing a ministry in last December’s reshuffle but ultimately returned to the backbench.
On 7:30 last night, Jenkins expressed some reservations over the sequence of events, and slammed Capital Hill dwellers for their “insider mentality”, noting sagely “that a number of my colleagues don’t take even half a deep breath and say, ‘Well, how are we perceived from outside?,’ because I think that those thoughts would lead us to engage with each other in a different way”.
Victorian ALP preselection nominations formally open today and will stretch for two weeks. Strong contenders include Lisa Chesters in Bendigo, where Steve Gibbons is retiring, and Cath Bowtell, who is expected to take on Greens incumbent Adam Bandt in another pitched battle for the seat of Melbourne.
Chesters, facing opposition from local lawyer Greg Westbrook, is understood to have done good work in recent weeks liaising with local branch members, while Bowtell’s candidacy has been long mooted after her narrow loss to Bandt in 2010 who scraped over the line on Liberal preferences.
The POSC — which reflects the factional makeup of state conference — will meet in late August to deliver its ruling following the rank and file votes.