BILL Sykes could be thrust into a bitter election battle with another Coalition member after the curtain came down on the Benalla electorate yesterday after more than a century of existence.
The seat, which was created in 1904, was renamed Euroa to better reflect the geographic centre of the electorate and also includes another Hume Highway town of Seymour and local government areas of Campaspe, Greater Bendigo, Mitchell and Strathbogie.
Benalla remains the largest population centre and is the location of Dr Sykes’ electoral office, but the city is located in the north eastern corner of the electorate.
Euroa will also absorb the electorate of Seymour which is presently held by Liberal Cindy McLeish, who could be part of a three-cornered election fight between Dr Sykes’ National Party and Labor in the state election next year.
Tensions between the National and Liberal Party were re-ignited in the recent federal election in the seat of Mallee and long-time National parliamentarian Ken Jasper’s support of Cathy McGowan in Indi where she toppled Liberal Sophie Mirabella.
Dr Sykes won’t commit to standing at next year’s election and Ms McLeish won the seat back from Labor’s Ben Hardham at the 2010 poll.
“It comes down to whether I decide to stick my hand up and who else decides to stick their hand up,” he said.
“And also our Coalition agreement with the Liberal Party.
“All of those things will be the subject of discussion between our respective parties in the next few weeks and months.
“I have other interests and I have family.
“But on the other hand I have got a lot of satisfaction out of serving my constituents, particularly since we’ve been in government.”
Former Benalla electorate towns of Bright, Myrtleford, Glenrowan and the ski resorts of Mount Hotham and Dinner Plain have been switched to the Ovens Valley electorate and Mansfield has headed to another newly created electorate of Eildon.
Dr Sykes was a vocal opponent of the changes proposed by Electoral Boundaries Commission when announced mid-year.
“Our preferred position was to accommodate the changed numbers by extending the southern boundary of Benalla and include Alexandra, Seymour and Yea, but the decision has been made I will live with that,” he said.
“The focus of my staff and I is to keep serving our constituents for the next 12 months.”