A LABOR Party official has refused to explain why Melbourne-based candidates were this week chosen ahead of North East hopefuls for the Victorian Upper House seat that includes Wangaratta and Wodonga.
The national executive first endorsed Daniel Mulino and Steve Herbert for the seat but party returning officer Tony Lang rejected that decision on the grounds it failed to meet party rules that women must be nominated for 40 per cent of winnable seats.
But the executive has now overruled Mr Lang, leaving Wodonga councillor Lisa Mahood, former Wangaratta councillor Lauren McCully, former Benalla candidate Rowena Allen and former Indi candidate Zuvele Leschen, who had nominated, out in the cold.
The decision is seen as a win for party factional bosses over North East party members.
The party’s state secretary Noah Carroll said his only comment was that two Melbourne men had been installed.
“I don’t know why we’re still talking about this,” he said.
Ms McCully said the party rank and file should have made the decision.
“It’s utterly disgusting,” she said. “The party has rules for a reason and they’ve set them aside for their own factional agenda.
“It’s a complete disregard for the local area.”
Ms Leschen said factional leaders had put their own agenda ahead of the desire for local representation.
“The national executive is admitting the candidates aren’t good enough to be pre-selected on their own merit,” she said.
“They are fobbing us off with second-raters.”
Ms Leschen said leaving four highly qualified women out in the cold was a slap in the face for women.
Ms McCully and Ms Leschen said it was too early to say whether they would boycott next year’s state election.
Mr Herbert is retiring from the lower house seat of Eltham, while Mr Mulino was a former adviser to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.