Mundine praises Gillard for Peris move
FORMER ALP national president Warren Mundine has described Julia Gillard's shock endorsement of Nova Peris to stand for the Senate in the Northern Territory as a "great moment".
The Prime Minister's decision to effectively sack Labor Senator Trish Crossin in favour of Ms Peris has been roundly criticised from within and outside the ALP.
Ms Peris, who has never been a member of the ALP, would become the party's first Aboriginal MP and the first indigenous woman from any political party to sit in the Federal Parliament.
Mr Mundine praised the move, adding the ALP's credibility was "on the line".
"You can't go on continuing to say you are the champion of the indigenous people when you don't have an indigenous person sitting next to you in Parliament," Mr Mundine told ABC TV.
"For 112 years in the Federal Parliament there has not been an indigenous person representing the Labor Party and for years myself and many other people have been campaigning. It's about time that has happened."
The Generation One CEO said he understood party members in the Territory would be upset with the move, but said the act of parachuting high profile candidates into the Parliament was "not uncommon".
He said while he had great respect for Senator Crossin and former Territory cabinet minister Marion Scrymgour, who was planning to challenge for Senate pre-selection, he supported the Prime Minister's "drastic" action.
"This is not about their candidacy," Mr Mundine said.
"Politics is a tough game. It's the toughest game in town and these things have happened in the past.
"In fact, I chaired the meeting as national president where we saw Peter Garrett endorsed by the national executive in the seat in Sydney here and then went on to become a minister."
Mr Mundine was himself overlooked to fill the Senate vacancy left by Mark Arbib in February last year, with Bob Carr getting the nod.
Rather than feeling hard done by, Mr Mundine said he was proud of Ms Peris's surprise elevation.
But speaking on Melbourne radio Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said Mr Mundine would "almost certainly" have filled the vacancy left by Mr Arbib had it not been for Ms Gillard's intervention.
He said Ms Scrymgour may have also won pre-selection had the Prime Minister not exercised a "captain's pick".
"I think it's laudable that the Prime Minister wanted to get an indigenous person into the Parliament at long last for the Labor Party ... but there were plenty of candidates who could have emerged through a normal democratic process," Mr Abbott said.
"It's the way the Prime Minister has done it and what this shows about her judgement which I think is the real question here."
But despite an angry reaction from Senator Crossin, a 15-year parliamentary veteran, and criticism from within her own party, Ms Gillard was standing her ground on Wednesday.
Ms Gillard said she knew there would be those who did not agree with her decision to have the ALP's national executive to pave the way for Ms Peris to be installed as the party's No.1 candidate in the Territory.
"These are always tough decisions, it's a leadership decision and I made one," she said on ABC radio.
"I came to my decision because I thought it was so important that we as a federal Labor Party embrace amongst our numbers an indigenous Australian, an indigenous woman of incredible merit, and that is Nova Peris."
The ALP national executive is meeting on Wednesday to sign off on Ms Peris's admission to the party.