INDEPENDENT MP Cathy McGowan appears to privately have little doubt that Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie will seek to be her successor as member for Indi.
The Lower House representative told a political rival last week “we’re going to squash Bridget aren’t we?”.
“We’re waiting to see what the National Party do, but I hope they bring a high profile woman to the debate,” Ms McGowan said.
As for the soon-to-be Wodonga resident, Senator McKenzie, she was on holidays yesterday and offered a short but gracious statement in response Ms McGowan’s announcement.
“From one regional parliamentarian to another – I would like to recognise Cathy’s service to the North East of Victoria and the people of Indi and wish her all the very best for her future,” Senator McKenzie said.
The Regional Services, Sport and Local Government Minister is expected to make a final decision soon with the Nationals expected to hold an Indi preselection in mid-February.
Wangaratta’s Marty Corboy, who contested Indi for the Nationals against Ms McGowan in the 2016 federal election on Monday showed gratitude to his former rival.
“Personally I thank Cathy for her time as member for Indi and I look forward to the upcoming campaign, but I’m not sure I’m running yet,” Mr Corboy said.
“Cathy, she knocked off a goliath in 2013 (in Liberal incumbent Sophie Mirabella) and we ran a good campaign (in 2016) as a party off a very low base and given the opportunity to do so again it would be an honour.”
However, it is understood if Senator McKenzie chose to contest Indi then Mr Corboy would opt not to seek the Nationals’ candidacy.
Mrs Mirabella was on Monday unavailable to comment on the departure of Ms McGowan.
However, her successor as Liberal Party Indi candidate Steve Martin called a media conference in Wodonga to discuss Ms McGowan’s exit.
“She’s served two terms for the people of Indi and she’s certainly been a very passionate local candidate and I wish her well in her post political career,” Mr Martin said.
“Cathy’s been a very passionate local member and I really respect a lot of things she’s done.
“I think the way she has drawn people into the political process has been really valuable and it is certainly something, if I was successful, I would look to continue.”
Asked about the prospect of Senator McKenzie contesting Indi, Mr Martin was diplomatic.
“Bridget will obviously make up her own mind in time,” Mr Martin said.
“I think it is fantastic she’s moved her office to Wodonga, I really look forward to her getting to work as the senator for Victoria up here in Wodonga and if I’m successful wouldn’t it be great if we had two federal MPs based here in Wodonga.”
Labor candidate for Indi Eric Kerr has no doubt Senator McKenzie’s name will be alongside his on the ballot paper for the House of Representatives.
“We’re ready to take on Bridget and we welcome her move from Bendigo to the region,” Mr Kerr said.
“It will make for an interesting contest.”
Mr Kerr congratulated Ms McGowan on her service to North East voters.
He said while there were things they may disagree about “you’ve got to have respect and we respect her on behalf of what she’s done for the community”.
With health researcher Helen Haines filling Ms McGowan’s role as an orange independent candidate, Mr Kerr said Labor would adjust its campaign outlook.
He indicated there would have been a focus on Ms McGowan’s parliamentary support for cuts to penalty rates.
Mr Kerr said he was keen to learn whether Dr Haines shared the same view on that matter as Ms McGowan and whether her stance differed on other matters.
“If it is all the same on stuff we need to know,” Mr Kerr said.
The federal election is expected to be held in May.
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