THE Nationals must choose a candidate for Indi now if they are to have any chance of winning the seat, according to senior North East party member Don Chambers.
Rutherglen branch president Mr Chambers — who was The Nationals’ last challenger for the seat back in 2001 — will call on the party to start planning for the next federal election, when he attends a Victorian Nationals state conference meeting in Melbourne this weekend.
Much of the focus following last year’s federal election has centred on the Liberal Party and its plans to win back Indi after its shock defeat at the hands of independent Cathy McGowan.
But the 2016 election could in fact be a four-cornered contest that will pit the Liberals and Nationals against each other for the first time since 2001.
It comes at a time of strained relations bet-ween the Coalition partners, most recently due to the Liberals’ decision to run a candidate in the notionally Nationals- held seat of Euroa — triggering the first three-cornered contest of the Victorian election in a seat that is not Labor-held.
While officials in both The Nationals and Liberals have deflected questions about future Indi candidates, stating it’s “too early” to consider federal elections or that the focus was wholly on the coming state election, Mr Chambers was more forthcoming.
“Members locally have been in contact with me asking what’s happening and why aren’t we doing something about Indi,” he said.
“I’ll be raising it this weekend and saying if we are serious about doing something in Indi, then we need to get our skates on.
“Yes, we are focusing on the state election, however, we’ve got to be aware of what could happen at the next federal election too.”
Former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella (then Panopoulos) won with 40 per cent of the primary vote in 2001 — convincingly defeating Mr Chambers, with 12.29 per cent of the primary vote, in the process.
Prior to the last election, Indi had been held by the Liberals since 1977, when Ewen Cameron defeated the sitting National Country MP Mac Holten, who had himself held the seat for 19 years — the longest of any Indi MP.
But since then, The Nationals have polled third behind Labor in each election they have contested.