And he could yet face competition from the son of another longtime Liberal MP, with Joshua Teague – the lawyer who pushed for “electoral fairness” on the party’s behalf at the recent Boundaries review, and whose father Baden was a moderate-faction senator for almost two decades from 1977 – “weighing up” a prospective future in politics.
The party yesterday opened nominations for a raft of state electorates, with the proverbial Melbourne Cup field of candidates expected to line up for three safe seats that will fall vacant with the retirements of veterans Mitch Williams, Mark Goldsworthy and Michael Pengilly.
The latter’s seat of Finniss is expected to be strongly-contested, with rumour rife among Liberal ranks that long-time party member Alex Brown will make a tilt for parliament.
Brown is the president of the Finniss State Electorate Committee and the son of the moderate faction’s elder statesman, the former Premier who was handed the seat when he returned to parliament to seize the Liberal leadership in the wake of Labor’s State Bank fiasco.
The seat, in various guises, has long been symbolic heartland territory for the moderate faction. Previously called Alexandra, it was held by party stalwart Ted Chapman, the late father of current deputy Liberal leader Vickie. Ted retired to facilitate Brown’s election in the safe seat, in a bid to thwart John Olsen staking a claim to the leadership.
The move saw Brown lead the Liberals to a thumping election win, but also ushered in a new era of factional feuding that culminated in Olsen deposing Brown within one term of government.
Alex Brown did not rule out nominating for the seat, telling InDaily: “As you’d appreciate, it’s an internal party matter that we need to work through.”
It’s understood Brown does not live in the seat, residing instead in Morphett, where speculation has persisted about the tenure of frontbencher Duncan McFetridge. McFetridge has long maintained he intends to stand again in 2018, and would have been buoyed by leader Steven Marshall’s comments on ABC radio last week that “there will be no retirements or by-elections between now and the next election, and so the team that we have on the field at the moment will be the one that will be going into the next election”.
Those comments were made two days before Pengilly, Williams and Goldsworthy confirmed they would not run.
Asked about the prospect of running in Morphett, Brown said: “I don’t wish to make any further comment about the preselections.”
McFetridge, in London on business, said via text message he was “not expecting to be challenged but that is their right if they think they have the support”.
Dean Brown told InDaily his son’s prospective candidacy in Finniss was “a decision for him”.
“That’s not for me to talk about,” he said.
“I have no further comment.”
But some in Liberal ranks have poured cold water on Brown’s prospects, with one insider telling InDaily there was “quite a clear and distinct message” within the party “that people are over these family dynasties rolling through”.
With the recent retirement of Iain Evans and the looming replacement of Goldsworthy, only Chapman remains from the party’s ‘family dynasty’ era, a period largely marked by factional infighting.
“I think everyone’s over it… the party’s changed [and] those dynasties are past their use-by date,” the source said.
Whether or not Brown contests, there is expected to be a strong suite of prospective candidates fighting it out for Finniss. The seat ceded Kangaroo Island – where Pengilly lives and based an electorate office – to Leon Bignell’s Mawson electorate in last week’s boundary redistribution.
Teague has been linked to Finniss in past preselection battles, but is yet to make a decision about whether to nominate this time round, there or elsewhere.
He told InDaily he has “no plans at the moment, but I’m weighing things up”.
“It’s an important time for the party in the lead-up to the election [and] this preselection process is an important process, as far as readying for the election,” he said.
Teague’s elevation would have a hint of poetry, however, given the current influx of young aspirants has been largely triggered by the recent landmark report of the Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission – before whom he argued the case for change as part of the legal team representing the Liberal Party.
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.