Deniliquin Pastoral Times
The election race is officially on in Farrer.
Sitting member Sussan Ley’s position as the seat’s Liberal candidate has been confirmed, after a court challenge against the Prime Minister’s endorsement of her was thrown out.
Ms Ley was facing her first pre-selection challenge since winning the seat in 2001, from party member Christian Ellis, who recently moved to Deniliquin.
Following the High Court decision, which paved the way for the endorsement of 12 NSW Liberal sitting members hand-picked by senior Liberal Party figures, Mr Morrison announced a May 21 election on Sunday.
Others running for Farrer include Greens candidate Eli Davern, Liberal Democrats candidate Emma Naughton-Starkey, United Australia Party candidate Louis Ramos, and Great Australian Party candidate Mistie Sibraa.
Former Albury City Mayor Kevin Mack has denied speculation he would be running again as an Independent.
Mr Mack posed one of the strongest challenges to Ms Ley at the 2019 election in her two decades in the seat, but the nine per cent swing towards him was not enough to topple her majority.
His refusal to challenge again suggests another three years with Ms Ley is likely.
Ms Ley, along with 11 others, was chosen by a committee comprised of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet, and former federal Liberal Party president Christine McDiven.
She was one of the first to be hand-picked by the executive committee, a decision which has ruffled feathers with some rank and file members of the party, who would normally cast votes to select a candidate in the event of an internal challenge.
The Deniliquin Liberal Party branch censured Mr Morrison and Ms Ley in a motion at its March 22 meeting.
In a copy of the motion obtained by the Pastoral Times, it resolves to criticise “the poor action taken by the Prime Minister and accepted by Sussan Ley, to bypass the rights of local Liberal Party members in installing the candidate for Farrer”.
The motion passed with a majority. However Ms Ley revealed in an interview with the ABC on Friday that she requested Mr Morrison’s intervention.
“A large number of people joined my branches - It became clear to me there were different agendas, probably an agenda to unseat me,” she said.
She admitted to asking Mr Morrison to intervene.
“He acted. He stepped in and supported my endorsement.”
Ms Ley refused to name any specific challengers who might have prompted her to contact the prime minister for assistance.
Some members of the local branch have argued their democratic right to select a candidate has been taken away, but blame has been placed on both the executive, and on those responsible for the alleged branch stacking, by various members.
Some have specifically expressed discontent with Ms Ley’s leadership in recent years, particularly her role in water policy, and asserting it’s time for a fresh face to run for the Liberals in Farrer.
Considered a very safe Liberal seat, Ms Ley holds Farrer with a 19.8 per cent majority.
Mr Morrison’s timeframe gives candidates just six weeks to campaign, and provids voters just one week from yesterday to enrol to vote, or update their voting details with the Australian Electoral Commission.