By DI BARTOK
RANK and file ALP members are hoping that a decision to “parachute” an Eastern Suburbs high profile businessman into Parramatta to contest the upcoming Federal election will be reversed at Wednesday’s national executive meeting.
But Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese seems set on his “captain’s choice” of Andrew Charlton, who was Kevin Rudd’s economic advisor during the Global Financial Crisis and now heads consultancy company Accenture.
However, Mr Charlton’s economic credentials do not stack up against the calibre of local candidates who understand the area, local branch members say.
It also goes against the Party’s focus on diversity, with Mr Charlton described as “a privileged white man” by one local Labor member.
Such a candidate would not gel with voters in a diverse, multi-cultural area, Labor sources say.
Locals considered front-runners in a rank-and-file contest include solicitor Durga Owen, who has worked closely with retiring Labor member Julie Owens, and was State candidate for Seven Hills and tech expert and family man Anthony Ellard who ran in the last council election in the Dundas Ward.
Ms Owen is hoping for a “change of heart” of the Federal executive when they meet on Wednesday.
“Parramatta’s ALP party members should have a say on the next Labor candidate and the best way to do that is a rank-and-file preselection ballot. This process is essential to maintaining party democracy,” she said.
While Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not officially announced the date of the Federal election, it is expected to be held by the end of May, not giving any candidate much time for campaigning – especially if they are not known to locals.
The Liberal Party is in a similar bind, with an “outsider” likely to be chosen by the Party’s Federal executive rather than by the local branch members.
Both parties slammed
Labor veteran councillor Pierre Esber has slammed both parties for ignoring the wishes of locals, who expect candidates with strong connections to the area.
“This is not democratic and not the reason that people join political parties,” Cr Esber told the Times.
“If Andrew Charlton is chosen, we will have someone who is four to five electorates away from Parramatta. What does someone from the Eastern Suburbs know about our area?”
Former Labor Parramatta councillor and previous State candidate James Shaw said it would be a blow to democracy if an “outsider” was chosen as the Party’s candidate.
Parramatta has been held by Labor’s Julie Owens for 18 years. Ms Owens, a popular local member, is retiring and the Liberal Party feels they have a real chance of grabbing the prized seat. Whoever wins Parramatta has a good chance of winning government.
At the 2019 election, Owens held on to the seat with a 3.5 per cent margin, with 1.4 percent swing against her. The Liberals had a 6.9 per cent swing to it with their candidate Charles Camenzuli, who again will be a candidate if there is a rank and file preselection process.
Political pundits are predicting a backlash against both major parties if they field out-of-area candidates.
The battle of Parramatta in 2022 is set to be an interesting one.
Image: Albanese favorite Andrew Charlton and local favorites: Durga Owen and Anthony Ellard.