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Labor makes its move on Bedford's seat

Politics

A state Labor MP is set to switch seats at the forthcoming state election – a move that could see him go head-to-head with ex-ALP veteran turned independent Frances Bedford.

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Party whip Michael Brown has confirmed he will leave his current northern suburbs seat of Playford, after last year’s electoral boundaries redistribution shifted almost 12,000 voters from Para Hills, Para Hills West and Parafield into neighbouring Florey.

The ALP this week opened preselection nominations for both seats, as well as Newland, Waite and Whyalla-based Giles, where incumbent Eddie Hughes is set to run again.

“I haven’t yet put a nomination in [but] I intend to nominate for preselection for Florey,” Brown told InDaily.

“The majority of my current electorate is now in the electorate of Florey, I live in Florey, my children go to school in Florey and my electorate office is in Florey.”

The move is intriguing given Brown’s indirect role in Bedford’s decision to run as an independent ahead of the 2018 election.

His former Right-faction colleague and then-Health Minister Jack Snelling attempted a similar shift in 2017, challenging Bedford’s preselection in Florey to facilitate Brown entering parliament via Playford, Snelling’s old seat.

But Snelling resigned from parliament altogether after Bedford opted to fight on as an independent, easily winning Florey at the 2018 poll.

Snelling has since quit Labor to run the newly-reformed Christian party Family First, a move Bedford says has “emboldened” the ALP in key northern suburbs seats.

She is still considering whether to recontest her current seat or neighbouring Newland, after much of her existing electorate was shifted there in the same redistribution.

Newland, SA’s most marginal state seat, is held by Liberal whip Richard Harvey on a razor-thin 0.2 per cent margin.

Of the prospect of facing Bedford in Florey, Brown said: “She’ll do what she wants to do – I’m only interested in putting myself forward as the best representative for Florey for the next four years.”

“Seats don’t belong to members – they belong to the electors,” he said, insisting Bedford’s intentions “have no bearing on my decision”.

“I first talked about running for Florey with the leader last year when the boundaries came out, and it’s really been my preference to run for Florey since the boundaries were announced,” he said.

The latest round of musical chairs again highlights the role of the Boundaries Commission, which is mandated to redraw the state’s electoral map every four years.

Bedford has previously questioned the mandate, noting she represents barely a suburb of the Florey electorate she originally held when first elected in 1997.

Brown’s current seat of Playford will be filled by the Australian Workers Union under a factional deal, with one-time Government advisor John Fulbrook understood to be the union’s chosen candidate.

Fulbrook, who has previously run for the ALP in Liberal-held Kavel, is in the process of resigning from his current role as a bureaucrat in the Northern Territory and has moved back to SA ahead of taking up employment with the AWU.

He told InDaily: “It’s my intention to seek nomination for the seat of Playford.”

Bedford noted this left only two of five open seats for women candidates, an issue that has dogged Labor of late amid a messy preselection stoush in the federal seat of Spence.

“Part of the reason I left the Labor Party was because of the preselection process,” she said.

“They’re going to shoehorn Michael Brown and Eddie [Hughes] as sitting members, leaving three of five vacancies up for grabs – it’s a real problem for the Labor party and I think they need to get their own house in order.”

Bedford expects to confirm her own intentions in October, saying: “I’m just looking after people out here.”

“It’s all about giving people choice at the election – and if I don’t run, they don’t have a choice.”

Labor’s former Waite candidate, Finance Sector Union advocate Cathy Hutchesson, has been endorsed by the local sub-branch to run again, while it’s understood the Right faction favours a woman candidate in Newland, after its previous choice pulled the pin in June.

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