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Labor rules out Mayo hopefuls over citizenship concerns

Politics

SA Labor has been forced to rule out at least two prospective candidates for the Mayo by-election because of citizenship concerns, InDaily can reveal, while insiders are not sold on the candidacy of Alice Dawkins, the daughter of a former federal Treasurer.

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Voters in the Hills seat will return to the polls on July 28 for a by-election prompted by incumbent Rebekha Sharkie’s resignation. The Centre Alliance MP, who is re-contesting the seat, quit amid  citizenship concerns after earlier confirming the UK Home Office did not register her renunciation of British citizenship until after she nominated for the then-Nick Xenophon Team in 2016.

The citizenship scandal that has seen a host of MPs and senators forced out – and has now prompted fresh by-elections in four seats nationally – continues to blight both major parties. Liberal candidate Georgina Downer – whose father Alexander held the seat for a quarter of a century and served as Foreign Minister for 11 years – was preselected unopposed after two other hopefuls withdrew over citizenship issues.

InDaily understands that of the 11 expressions of interest received by Labor for the seat, at least two prospective candidates have been ruled out over citizenship concerns.

Only one hopeful, Alice Dawkins, has publicly confirmed their nomination. Her father John was a minister for Trade, Finance and Employment, Education and Training in the Hawke governments before serving as Treasurer for two years under Paul Keating.

John Dawkins represented Fremantle in WA for several years, later retiring to SA.

Labor sources say Dawkins remains “one of the frontrunners” but there are concerns her candidacy would rob the party of a key line of attack against Downer – that she is the daughter of party royalty seeking to assume the mantle.

“It raises a question in my mind… I think she’d be a good candidate, but I just don’t know if she’s a good candidate in these circumstances,” said one insider.

“I’d have concerns about running the daughter of a Labor luminary.”

However, with prospective candidates being interviewed this week, insiders insist she is “still in the race”.

Dawkins, a former Hawker scholar who was last year awarded SA’s first Schwarzman Scholarship, said she had not heard the suggestion that her family background could work against her, “but that’s for the party to interpret for themselves and weigh up those risks”.

She said she understood there were “eight or nine” prospective candidates vying for preselection, saying it was “a real positive for the party”.

“It’s great there’s such a depth of candidates,” she said.

While not considered a serious chance of winning, Labor will be keen to take votes away from the Liberals and direct preferences to Sharkie, as well as bolster its profile in the seat, which has suffered since the party failed to contest the last Mayo by-election, after Alexander Downer retired in 2008.

Labor insiders say proposed draft boundaries under a Commonwealth redraw will bolster the ALP vote in Mayo, with the party keen to “make sure we’re showing up” at the July poll.

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