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Libs get in line as safe seats fall vacant

Politics

Premier Steven Marshall’s most senior media adviser, a former Northern Territory politician and the immediate past president of the Local Government Association are among a glut of hopefuls vying for Liberal preselection after the party closed nominations in four winnable seats.

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The Liberals are gearing up for next year’s March election, with nominations closing late yesterday in three northern seats, Frome, Flinders and Schubert, as well as Mawson in the south.

Frome, held by long-time independent Geoff Brock, has attracted six nominees after the incumbent opted to shift to neighbouring Stuart, with a boundary redistribution shifting his heartland town of Port Pirie into the seat held by Liberal frontbencher Dan van Holst Pellekaan.

Schubert and Flinders remain safe Liberal electorates that will fall vacant with the departure of incumbents Stephan Knoll and Peter Treloar, both of whom have opted not to contest the next election.

Mawson is the ALP’s most marginal seat, but senior Liberals privately believe it to be an uphill battle to snare from Labor’s Leon Bignell, who is expected to have consolidated support in the Kangaroo Island portion of his electorate with his advocacy after last year’s bushfires.

The battle in Schubert will be the highest profile, with three candidates vying to replace Knoll, who stood down as a first-term minister last year before pulling the pin on his political career altogether.

While the party refuses to confirm nominees until candidate reviews have been conducted, InDaily has confirmed moderate Ashton Hurn – the head of Marshall’s communications team and one of his closet political confidantes – will face off against Right-aligned Caroline Rhodes, another former political staffer who is now CEO of Grain Producers SA.

Hurn, whose family has a long association with the region, has contested preselection in Schubert previously, losing to Knoll before he entered parliament in 2014.

The president of the party’s Barossa branch, private business consultant Steve Balch, has also nominated for the seat.

Balch was previously a Country Liberal Party MP in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly from 1997 to 2001.

In Frome, accountant and former party Treasurer Michael van Dissel is a surprise nominee, who will push his credentials given his long family association with the area. His uncle, Max van Dissel, who narrowly lost a recent vote for SA Liberal president, previously ran in the seat as part of the Save the RAH campaign in 2010.

Former ABC journalist Kendall Jackson, who ran against Brock in the past two elections, has renominated for Frome, and will face off against Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson’s Chief of Staff, Penny Pratt, whose father Michael was previously the federal MP for Adelaide.

Other names linked to the seat include Clare teacher Karen Slattery and real estate agent Craig Honan.

In Mawson, moderate-aligned former Christopher Pyne adviser and Women’s Council president Hannah March will face off against current Onkaparinga deputy mayor Simon McMahon and local dairy farmer Amy Williams.

The latter is likely to be endorsed by the seat’s former MP and fellow dairy farmer Robert Brokenshire, who told InDaily he had eschewed strong lobbying to nominate again himself – despite a political sojourn that saw him also represent Family First and Australian Conservatives in state parliament.

“There’s been a lot of lobbying from inside and outside the party for me to run, but my final decision was to get behind the candidate who was successful for preselection,” he said.

“I’m sticking to farming.”

Tumby Bay mayor and immediate past president of the LGA Sam Telfer is considered the frontrunner to replace Treloar in Flinders.

The Liberals also last night closed off nominations for its federal senate ticket, with incumbents Simon Birmingham and Andrew McLachlan set to take the first two spots, and the third to be fought out between two moderates – current SA Liberal vice-president Rachel Swift and staffer Kerrynne Liddle, who withdrew from the vice-presidency ballot during last year’s Liberal AGM citing illness.

The Right faction failed to field a candidate altogether, with mooted candidate Morry Bailes opting not to contest.

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