Digital artwork for the Daily Tele
Digital artwork for the Daily Tele

Big names in frame for federal tilt

With talk of a federal election being called this year, the buzz around the parliamentary corridors is who may decided to have a tilt at a federal seat.

It can be revealed NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge has declared he will nominate as the lead Senate candidate for the party after more than a decade in state parliament.

The industrial law barrister who drove the recent premier's office shredding scandal nquiry, declared his intentions last week. Several sources say NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance will again be urged to put his hand up for the federal seat of Gilmore.

The Bega MP has previously ruled it out, but his willingness to put his hand up for Eden-Monaro - even though it was less than 24 hours (he said he wanted to focus on bushfire recovery) - have given local Liberals in the Labor-held seat hope. Held by Fiona Phillips with a 2.6 per cent margin, the seat is deemed within reach, especially with a high-profile candidate such as "Bega".

 

Andrew Constance could have a tilt at federal politics. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard
Andrew Constance could have a tilt at federal politics. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Gaye Gerard

The Labor victory at the last election was blamed on the Coalition's disastrous candidate selection process with the party installing Warren Mundine - allegedly at the behest of Prime Minister Scott Morrison - despite locals already having anointed a candidate.

"I think Bega may consider it," a Liberal source said. "Sydney is a five-hour drive away - Canberra's less than three hours. It's s no-brainer."

Speaking of Eden-Monaro, should Fiona Kotvojs choose not to have another tilt at the Labor-held seat she almost won at last year's by-election, parliamentary sources say senator Jim Molan will almost certainly be encouraged to put his hand up. As for NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, who also last year toyed with idea of running, a source close to the Deputy Premier said the Monaro MP was "definitely" not going to be a candidate.

Brooke Vitnell may run in the seat of Paterson.
Brooke Vitnell may run in the seat of Paterson.

Up in Newcastle, the talk in town is that ex-Canberra staffer Brooke Vitnell is preparing to have a shot at winning back the now Labor-held seat of Paterson.

Held by her former boss Bob Baldwin for almost two decades, the veteran ex-Liberal chose not to recontest after a redistribution eroded the Liberal margin.

Vitnell, a solicitor whose partner Julian Leembruggen is a staffer in the office of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, is yet to formally announce her candidacy, but it is understood party locals are keen for her to have a tilt.

She will have her work cut out should she be preselected against the high-profile incumbent Meryl Swanson, a former radio presenter.

There are hopes Bruce Baird will return to the political arena. Picture: Britta Campion / The Australian
There are hopes Bruce Baird will return to the political arena. Picture: Britta Campion / The Australian

But with the Liberals halving the 10 per cent margin at the last election, it is regarded as being within reach. The biggest question is who the Liberals will choose to take on Zali Stegall in Warringah with some locals still clinging to hope former premier Mike Baird will come around.

"Whether Warringah comes back to us, will depend on the candidate," said a senior Liberal source.

"Baird says he's done, but I know some are still holding out hope."

UNREST IN THE HILLS

SHE won preselection for the seat with great fanfare, but former 1980s Penthouse Pet turned conservative Liberal MP for Hawkesbury - Robyn Preston - is facing a fight for political survival.

The Hawkesbury councillor from the hard right faction can thank a redistribution of the boundaries of the blue-ribbon seat being moved to take in two Centre Right-controlled Liberal Party branches, including the Nelson Young Liberals.

Robyn Preston
Robyn Preston

With Preston only having won preselection by a handful of votes, it's understandable why her supporters are nervous.

A Liberal source confirmed there was likely to be "a strong field of candidates" when nominations are called.

"We expect there will be both Centre Right and moderate candidates putting their hands up," the source said.

 

NOT AMUSED

THE author of the scandalous website "Politicom", which last year famously posted an article titled The Conservatives no-one knew were Straight" before it was promptly removed after - shock - complaints is now facing being suspended from the Liberal Party for alleged privacy breaches.

Sean Burke, who was the president of the Liberal Freshwater branch until he recently stepped down "to travel", is the subject of a motion passed by the NSW Liberal Party state executive last month to "commence disciplinary proceedings" in relation to allegations of "unauthorised data harvesting" and "causing embarrassment" to the party.

A party source said it is alleged Burke "collected" emails of party members who were then "spammed".

Burke, who in his latest edition of Politicom has published a series of articles on "invasion day" "gender fluidity classes" an upcoming "ice age" and the "hysterical response" by politicians to the coronavirus, has asked by the party to respond to the allegations before it considers the motion.

A source close to Mr Burke said the Politcom editor had formally denied the claims to the party.

The source said the "trumped up charges" against Mr Burke were the result of anger within "the left" over some of website's articles, which simply reflected what was going on within the party.

These included the party "going soft on bestiality" and "late-term abortion", the source said.

"Mr Burke rejects the allegations," the source.

The NSW Liberal Party office declined to comment.

GOT SOME SAUCE? CONTACT LINDA.SILMALIS@NEWS.COM.AU

Originally published as Big names in frame for federal tilt


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