No Labor show in Narracan?
The Australian Labor Party is still without endorsed candidates for the Legislative Assembly seats of Narracan and Gippsland South, both held by the Liberal-National coalition, with the State election only 52 days away.
And the closing date for nominations is just 36 days away, on November 8 with early voting to be open from November 12.
The ALP State government does not hold any of the five Legislative Assembly seats in Gippsland – Narracan, Morwell, Bass, Gippsland South and Gippsland East.
If it does not have candidates in Narracan and Gippsland South about 40 per cent of Gippsland enrolled voters will not be given the choice to vote for the ALP in the Lower House.
Inquiries by The Gazette to the ALP State headquarters last week did not throw light on whether there would be candidates in Narracan and Gippsland South other than an unofficial comment that the situation “remained open”.
The five Gippsland seats are held by members of the Liberal Party (two), The Nationals (two) and an independent Russell Northe, elected in 2014 as a member of The Nationals but later moving to the cross-bench.
Narracan, Gippsland South and Gippsland East are among the safety of the 38 seats held by the Liberal-National coalition.
Narracan ranks 29th safest, Gippsland South 33rd and Gippsland East 36th.
The most tenuous for the Coalition in Gippsland is Morwell where Mr Northe, standing for The Nationals, won in 2014 by a margin of 1.6 per cent after preference votes were allocated.
Narracan is held by Liberal Gary Blackwood, who was re-elected in 2014 with an absolute majority polling 55.2 per cent of first preference votes. The ALP candidate received 29.6 per cent. The Gazette understands there has been little interest from potential local candidates to stand for the ALP in Narracan.
However, party contacts have stated one person did express some interest before deciding not to go ahead with a nomination.
In a letter to the editor published in the Leongatha-based newspaper, The Great Southern Star, last week the writer said the South Gippsland branch of the ALP had not nominated a candidate for Gippsland South.
The reasons given were that the branch was relatively new and only formed after the party did not field a candidate at a 2015 by-election for the seat following the resignation from parliament of the former leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan.
The letter writer added that the branch “did not have enough members for anyone to take time off work or they had other commitments” and that funding was also a big issue.
He said the South Gippsland ALP branch would help in other seats (at the State election) and put its time, energy and resource into helping the ALP candidate for Monash (the new name for the current McMillan electorate) at next year’s Federal election.
The ALP ran a candidate for Gippsland South at the 2014 election attracting 21.87 per cent of first preference votes compared to Mr Ryan’s 57.26 per cent.
Danny O’Brien stepped down as one of the five Eastern Victorian members of the Upper House Legislative Assembly seat to contest the vacancy caused by Mr Ryan’s retirement byelection for The Nationals, winning on preferences after he and the Liberal candidate polled a combined 71.81 per cent of votes.
The Nationals have a firm grip on Gippsland East where Tim Bull polled 60.36 per cent of primary votes in 2014.
The Labor Party has endorsed East Gippsland Shire deputy mayor and former mayor Mark Reeves to run against Mr Bull.
Mr Reeves, who lives at Mallacoota, is the founding principal of the Schools for Student Leadership, a government educational institution in East Gippsland.
In the Bass electorate sitting Liberal member Bryan Paynter scored 54.55 per cent of the vote against the ALP candidate’s 45.45 per cent after the distribution of preferences to win in 2014.
It would require a swing against Mr Paynter of about 5.5 per cent to unseat him.
The ALP candidate next month will be Jordan Crugnale, a former Bass Coast mayor.
Ms Crugnale has worked on community arts and development projects.
The Morwell seat looks likely to be hotly contested.
Although sitting candidate Mr Northe is yet to announce whether he will be a candidate a strong field appears assured.
The ALP has endorsed former Hazelwood power station worker Mark Richards as its candidate with others that have declared they will stand including former Senator Ricky Muir (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, Latrobe City councillor Dale Harriman (Liberal Party) and Sheridan Bond, a former Latrobe councillor and State vice-president of the National Party who won a four-way contest for endorsement for The Nationals.