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Charity chief tipped for Labor challenge

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A prominent welfare agency leader and critic of the Marshall Government’s recent homelessness reforms is looming as the likely Labor challenger for the key federal SA seat of Boothby, InDaily understands.

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The southern suburbs seat of Boothby has been Liberal-held since 1949 but was retained by just 1.4 per cent at the 2019 election.

Incumbent Liberal Right-winger Nicolle Flint is leaving parliament at the next election, with moderate-backed Rachel Swift endorsed to run in her place.

But intrigue has surrounded Labor’s plans for the seat, which is overseen by the ALP Left under a longstanding factional deal.

InDaily understands St Vincent de Paul Society SA CEO Louise Miller-Frost is set to receive cross-factional support to run as Labor’s candidate.

The ALP will formally open nominations for preselection on Monday.

Miller-Frost declined to comment when contacted but it’s understood she has informed Vinnies that she intends to nominate for preselection.

Miller-Frost became Vinnies SA CEO in March last year.

She was outspoken when responding to a recent funding model shake-up of Adelaide homeless accommodation providers, with Vinnies one of several existing operators who lost funding under the changes.

“We have had the sad task of meeting with staff – men and women who have dedicated their lives to supporting people in distress – to tell them that jobs will end on 30 June,” she wrote in InDaily earlier this year.

“These are not glamorous, well-paid jobs; these people are here because of their dedication to making a difference to their community, to make a difference for those less well off than they are…

“Our clients often have complex, chaotic lives and find it difficult to trust people based on their experience with a harsh world that has left them homeless.

“You can rearrange the services all you want, push the contract management cost onto the sector for the services to pick up, but unless there is more social housing, you will just have very well-serviced people on the streets, still homeless.”

She has also called for the rollout of more social housing, writing in April that “while we hear about the importance of an infrastructure-led recovery, it would be good to see state and federal governments commit that infrastructure funding to building more social housing, thereby also delivering a direct social benefit to our community”.

According to a recent SA Life profile, Miller-Frost was born in the UK but moved to Australia with her family at 18 months of age, growing up in Modbury North before relocating to Westbourne Park.

Prior to Vinnies she was managing director of Catherine House, which provides emergency accommodation and support service for women experiencing homelessness.

“Some of the clients have experienced terrible things; others are there because of a lifetime of gender disadvantage – casualised work, low pay, time off work for carer duties means that as women approach retirement age, they don’t have the financial resources to support themselves,” she told SA Life.

She has also served on several boards, including chairing the Adelaide Zero Homelessness Project and the finance audit subcommittee of the Animal Welfare League.

While it’s unclear whether she is expected to face competition for the preselection, Labor sources have indicated she is set to receive strong backing from across the party.

Insiders have been increasingly vocal about the ALP’s delay in selecting a candidate for the key seat, given its vulnerability without a recognised incumbent, the prospect of a looming election and the fact the Morrison Government doesn’t currently have a working majority.

Boothby is the state’s only marginal seat, and the Coalition’s fourth-most-marginal in the country.

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