Chiefs key to second chance

LABOR candidates in North East Victoria have welcomed a tribunal ruling that the state branch broke the party’s own affirmative action rules during its Upper House pre-selections.

But the question remains whether that outcome will change anything, with the party’s national executive to consider the ruling in the next fortnight.

Four female candidates — Wodonga councillor Lisa Mahood, former Wangaratta councillor Lauren McCully, former Benalla candidate Rowena Allen and former Indi candidate Zuvele Leschen — were all overlooked for the Northern Victoria region, where Labor holds two of the five seats, both by women MPs who are retiring.

Instead of allowing members a rank-and-file vote as promised, the party’s factions installed two Melbourne-based men: retiring Eltham MP Steve Herbert and a former adviser to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Daniel Mulino.

The party’s appeal tribunal this week found Labor had failed to endorse enough female candidates for the November Victorian election, breaching its own rule that female candidates must run in 40 per cent of winnable seats.

Yesterday Ms Leschen and Ms McCully said they were pleased with the result but were unsure what it would mean for their political hopes.

Ms McCully said the national executive, which includes Mr Shorten and key factional figures Senators Kim Carr and Stephen Conroy, had the final say.

“They could acknowledge the decision but continue on the same route,” Ms McCully said.

“Or they could stand up for what’s right and go back to what should have happened, which is local people having a say on who their local representative should be.

“It’s just good that the issue of gender equality has been acknowledged.

“I always knew we would finally see at some point that the rules were not followed.”

Ms Leschen said party members had “fought long and hard” to get the affirmative action rule through, and that this had shown why it was needed.

“It’s not like we are asking them to pre-select women who don’t have merit,” she said.

“All four of us have a long track record of work for the party.

“If anything, perhaps they (the factions) intervened because they were afraid their preferred candidates wouldn’t get up.”

Ms Leschen doubted the party would start the pre- selection process from scratch but hoped they would reconsider those who nominated last time.

Both women agreed the incident could potentially be damaging for the Labor Party at election time.

“There’s been a lot of disenfranchised members who have talked about not renewing their membership,” Ms McCully said.

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