Labor’s decision to preselect former minister Melissa Parke to contest Julie Bishop’s seat of Curtin in the upcoming federal election will force the Liberals to divert precious resources to defend the traditionally safe seat, according to a political analyst.
- Curtin is one of the safest Liberal seats in WA, with a margin of 20 per cent
- Labor candidate Melissa Parke is a former federal minister with a high profile
- Her candidacy may force the Liberals to divert precious resources to retain Curtin
Ms Parke resigned as federal member for Fremantle in 2016 after nine years in the seat, saying she wanted to travel less and be closer to her family.
She was previously a lawyer with the United Nations before being preselected to the traditionally safe Labor seat.
Curtin has been held by Ms Bishop, an outgoing MP and former Foreign Affairs Minister, since 1998 and is one of the safest Liberal seats in the state.
Coalition bracing for a tough fight
The Coalition is expecting a tough contest in WA, with several seats — including Attorney-General Christian Porter’s seat of Pearce, Ageing Minister Ken Wyatt’s seat of Hasluck and the seats of Swan, Canning and Stirling — targeted by Labor.
In Curtin, Ms Parke will be up against Liberal candidate and former University of Notre Dame vice-chancellor Celia Hammond.
She announced her endorsement on Twitter last night and made mention of her support for action on climate change and support of marriage equality.
They were two areas in which Ms Hammond had faced questions about whether her views matched those of Curtin voters, who are seen as progressive and strongly supported gay marriage in the postal vote.
Notre Dame University political commentator Peter Kennedy said Ms Parke’s candidacy would force the Liberals to redirect campaign resources into retaining the seat, which the party holds by a margin of more than 20 per cent.
“Curtin has traditionally been the safest of Liberal seats in Western Australia and as a result of that, the party hasn’t had to devote a huge amount of resources to retaining the seat,” he said.
“Now that Labor has a higher-profile candidate than usual, I think it is important for the Liberals to make sure they provide those extra resources to safeguard the seat, which has effectively been the jewel in the crown.”
We don’t always pick good candidates, Labor MP admits
Labor MP for Perth Patrick Gorman, a former ALP state secretary, said he began discussing the Curtin candidacy with Ms Parke about a month ago.
“She lives in the electorate, she’s well known to the people of Curtin, I think she shares their values,” Mr Gorman said.
“It is a good candidate that we are putting forward in Curtin. We don’t always do that if we are honest.
“But to have someone of Melissa’s calibre standing as the Labor candidate in Curtin is a great thing for the people of Curtin.”
‘Close finish’ possible in Curtin
Mr Kennedy said he expected Labor would seek to strike a preference deal with the independent candidate for Curtin, Louise Stewart.
“If they can do a preference deal and have those preferences secure, then it could provide a close finish,” he said.
But Mr Kennedy said Labor running a high-profile candidate could diminish Ms Stewart’s chances of finishing second.
“You could find that the two challengers could perhaps cruel each others’ chances to oust Celia Hammond, but I guess that remains to be seen,” he said.
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