CATHY McGowan cannot guarantee she will contest the federal seat of Indi for a third time with the chances of an early election in 2018 still a possibility.
The independent MP, who has won the last two elections, has down-played growing speculation she won’t be a starter at the next election due in 2019 by declaring the troubled North-East railway line is at the top of her priorities this year.
But Liberal and National party sources in the North-East are convinced Ms McGowan will end her parliamentary career after two terms with preliminary deliberations around pre-selection underway.
The Coalition partners can both contest the next election again due to Ms McGowan holding onto the seat in 2016 with an increased majority.
“It has been my practice, in both 2013 and 2016, not to comment about standing as a candidate for Indi until a federal election is announced,” Ms McGowan said.
“That will also be the case ahead of the next election which may not occur until early 2019.
“I will continue to focus all my energy on working as hard as I can to best represent the people of Indi in the federal parliament.
“There is plenty of work to be done.
“Priorities for 2018 include the North-East rail line, community energy, regional telecommunications, higher education, aged care, health and regional development.”
Ms McGowan toppled Liberal incumbent Sophie Mirabella in 2013 with Ms Mirabella unable to win the seat back three years later.
Marty Corboy was the Nationals’ candidate at the 2016 election and hasn’t ruled out standing again.
But Wodonga mayor Anna Speedie has been linked to the Nationals’ next assault on Indi.
Ms McGowan ended a turbulent 2017 parliamentary year by refusing to budge on a long-standing commitment to guarantee confidence and supply to the Coalition government as it and Labor became embroiled in a citizenship saga which needed deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce and Liberal MP John Alexander to contest pre-Christmas by-elections to win back their seats.
The 2016 campaign was again hard fought with tensions between Ms McGowan and Mrs Mirabella spilling over during a televised forum at a Wangaratta pub with Mrs Mirabella making an ill-fated comment about funding for the local hospital and Ms McGowan refusing to confirm or deny she was pushed by the Liberal candidate at an earlier event at a Benalla nursing home.