“Gillard has picked a person [Nova Peris] who has never had anything to do with the Labor Party, never done anything to support the Labor Party, she’s never done anything for the Labor Party. She’s not even a member of the Labor Party! She gets tapped on the shoulder for a prestigious, privileged and highly responsible position to represent the Territory in the Senate.”
— Syd Stirling, January 2013.
That was NT Labor’s eminence grise Syd Stirling in January 2013 reacting to the announcement of prime minister Julia Gillard’s “captain’s pick” of political neophyte Nova Peris for the plum position as a Senate candidate for the NT over incumbent Trish Crossin. Syd Stirling was elected as NT Labor’s president in early 2015, well in advance of this year’s federal and territory general elections. There is no indication that Stirling’s views about Peris have changed much since 2013.
Now, with Peris officially stepping down as Labor Senate candidate for the NT, where does that leave things?
Following her success at the federal election in 2013, Peris can rightfully be proud to have been the first Aboriginal woman elected to federal Parliament. Her time on the red benches can best be described as underwhelming, but expectations were always modest.
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The news overnight that Peris was looking to get out of politics for a career with the AFL came as a shock to some. As The Australian reported earlier today, Peris recently met AFL executives about the vacant job of senior adviser for indigenous and multicultural affairs — a job for which she is said to be “a frontrunner” (not “the frontrunner”).
This is either a bold or crazy-brave-foolish play by Peris. If she thought she could keep her talks with the AFL under the covers, she reckoned without the connections of Caroline Wilson at The Age, who broke the story yesterday evening. And you don’t apply for a job — particularly when you have a (relatively) high profile and safe position, like being a senator — unless you’ve got a better than odds-on chance of getting it. And, by all accounts, Peris’ bid for the gig at the AFL isn’t anything like a done deal.
And while there’ll be no shortage of doomsayers about Labor’s prospects for the Senate in the NT, it isn’t all bad. At least the locals will get a say this time around, something that, as I noted back in January 2013, was a very real concern with Gillard’s choice of Peris. Peris may have strong connections to the NT, but they weren’t necessarily local Labor connections.
Now that Peris has stood down, and with nominations closing on June 9, Labor has two weeks to nominate a replacement candidate. Malarndirri McCarthy and Marion Scrymgour are seen as the likely candidates.