So it seems that the next election will most likely see Australia’s first Indigenous woman enter the nation’s parliament.
The Prime Minister has announced that former Hockey-Roo, sprinter and Olympic gold medalist, Nova Peris will be the Labor Party’s number one candidate for the Senate in the Northern Territory.
The Prime Minister has said that “Nova’s selection is a matter of national significance”, pointing to the celebrity candidate’s work in health and education, as well as her achievements on the sporting field.
Peris said at a press conference yesterday, ” I stand here before you all today not only as an Australian but as a proud Aboriginal woman; proud of my heritage and culture. I certainly understand the significance of this opportunity and I am very honoured and humbled.”
But what would normally be cause for celebration, has been met by some predictable controversy in the media and amongst ALP members today.
They’re pissed because Nova Peris was not chosen by ordinary members of the Labor Party to contest the Senate spot. In fact, she’s not even a member of the Labor Party. Instead Peris was chosen by the Prime Minister and Labor’s Head Office (read: faceless men) and has been what is commonly referred to as ‘parachuted in’.
Who cares, right? Why shouldn’t the Prime Minister be able to pick who she wants in her own team? Celebrity or otherwise, so long as Peris is a strong candidate who will do a good job, why does it matter?
While most of us view the move as perfectly reasonable, some members of the Labor Party are already arking up and ‘unnamed’ Labor MPs are reportedly livid about the Prime Minister’s endorsement of Peris.
This is why:
Normally, candidates are chosen to stand for election by a vote of ALP members in a particular area. So ordinary residents of the Northern Territory who have joined the ALP get together before an election year and they vote for who in the local area would be the best person to stand for election
In this case, a woman called Trish Crossin has been selected via this process prior to every election since 1998. She’s well liked by local branch members and popular in the community.
The Prime Minister’s announcement means that Crossin will lose her job and that members won’t be given the opportunity to vote like they normally do.
Ordinary members of the ALP take their right to vote in this process (called ‘pre-selection’) very seriously. These people are staunch supporters of their party and having a say in who gets to run for the Labor Party in elections is something that they hold dear.