By DI BARTOK
FORMER Liberal Lord Mayor Bob Dwyer thinks the Liberals have a real chance of winning Parramatta in the upcoming Federal election now that “top-notch” local businesswoman Maria Kovacic has been chosen as the candidate.
With Labor’s slim 3.5 percent hold, the Liberals have a real chance of grabbing the prime seat now that popular local member Julie Owens has retired, even if the Coalition does not retain government.
And it is all down to the candidate choices of the parties – Labor has chosen Eastern Suburbs businessman Andrew Charlton, much to the chagrin of local party rank and file, while the Liberals have opted for West Pennant Hills business leader Kovacic.
Mr Dwyer and other local Liberals had feared that their party would parachute in an outside candidate as Labor has done but are relieved that Kovacic was chosen, even if it was not by a rank and file vote.
The choice was made by a selection committee comprising Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Dom Perrottet and a former president of the federal Liberal Party Christine McDiven.
A challenge launched by Liberal Party state executive member Matthew Camenzuli on the validity of the PM committee’s choice over a rank-and-file vote was lost in the NSW Court of Appeal this week, though an appeal has been lodged.
Mr Camenzuli’s cousin, structural engineer Charles Camenzuli, was considered the rank-and-file favourite – despite him not being able to defeat Julie Owens in two previous elections.
It is understood Maria Kovacic was not Scott Morrison’s first choice – with State MPs David Elliott and Mark Taylor approached to run for the federal seat. Both said they were not interested.
The only other real contender apart from Kovacic and Charles Camenzuli was former Hornsby councillor Felicity Findlay.
Kovacic ran a successful mortgage and finance business for 16 years, while she and her husband Glenn raised their now adult children, and sits on the board of the Franchise Council of Australia.
She has been an active member of the Parramatta community, as the co-founder of Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Executive Women, member of the Committee for Western Sydney, NRLW Advisory Committee member, and a member of the steering committee for Parramatta Eels’ Women@Eels.
“Years ago, I began my own business to ensure financial security for my children,” Kovacic said. “Working hard to support my children, it was tough going trying to balance the demands of a small business and family but I persevered, built a thriving finance business, and used the lessons that I had learned to help others through the Franchise Council of Australia and Hills Community Aid.”
“As a daughter of migrants, I understand the challenges and aspirations of this community. My parents fled communism for a better life in Australia, and taught me the values that have helped me throughout my life.”
Committed to helping women succeed in business and community roles, Kovacic helped found Western Sydney Women and Western Sydney Executive Women. “Sydney’s west has some very unique characteristics, and so do the people who make it their home. I wanted to help facilitate opportunities and stronger networks for local women, to create and grow more local success stories.”
“If elected, I will be a strong advocate for this community in the Morrison Government – helping to deliver infrastructure, amenities and support for small businesses and local families.”
Out on the hustings,Kovacic has found that people are mostly interested in the cost of living and she says there has been a positive approach to the Federal Budget, especially tax cuts and help for families.
“I am ready to work hard for Parramatta,” she said.
Image: Local businesswoman Maria Kovacic.