Gender imbalance halts Labor preselection

UPDATE: Labor’s plans to directly install upper house Victorian candidates were brought to an unexpected halt yesterday, after the process was deemed in breach of affirmative action rules.

With only a handful of women among the 19 factionally-backed candidate hopefuls state wide, returning officer Tony Lang refused to declare yesterday’s ballot, which bypassed rank and file Labor members. 

Labor sources believe the national executive will convene on the the issue tonight.

MONDAY: The Victorian Labor party has been given the green light to bypass a membership ballot and directly install two Melbourne residents as candidates for the Eastern Victoria Region, the upper house seat covering Gippsland.

In what was been labelled a display of “absolute disrespect” for Gippsland Labor members, factionally-backed nominees are widely believed to be installed as upper house seat candidates today, in a plan endorsed by the Labor National Executive on Thursday.

Vicki Setches, who unsuccessfully run for the lower house seat of Kilsyth in the 2010 state election, and Harriett Shing, a lawyer for the Australian Services Union, are believed be installed at a meeting today.

East Gippsland councillor Jane Rowe had been nominated along with Gippslanders Tim Delaney, Jadon Mintern and Tony Flynn to run for candidacy in a preselection ballot, before the Victorian Labor administrative sought approval from the National Executive to bypass the balloting process.

“While this was not unexpected, the speed at which (the committee) have pushed this through shows a complete disrespect for the voice of the party across the state,” Ms Rowe said.

The move of installing non-Gippsland candidates is feared among local members to further erode Labor’s standing in the region, with Matt Viney and Johan Scheffer, who have offices in Warragul and Pakenham respectively, currently the only local in-parliament representatives in either houses of state and federal parliament.

Mr Viney and Mr Scheffer have both announced their retirements for the end of the current parliamentary term. Moe nominee Tony Flynn said he was highly disappointed by the National Executive’s decision to approve the direct appointments.

“I don’t think the electorate would be happy if the government told everyone ‘this will be your member of parliament’ without going through the election process – this is essentially what has happened here for members,” Mr Flynn said.RELATED COVERAGE: Liberals preselect Davis replacement