Modia Minotaur

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Peter Andren Headed for the Senate

Bathurst area Federal independent Peter Andren has today announced he plans to stand down from his seat of Calare, in order to contest the Senate in the next Federal election.

Phew, what a day!

Andren has held Calare comfortably for many years and is regarded as pretty popular amongst both his colleagues and constituents. However, last year's Federal redistribution had a substantial effect on his seat, slicing off the areas in which his support is strongest and adding demographically dissimilar areas in which he is little known. Speculation has since raged that he would challenge the Liberal Party's Kerry Bartlett for the neighbouring seat of Macquarie.

Instead, he has taken neither option, pledging to redress the balance in the Federal senate.

I can now confidently predict an almighty stoush for Calare. While Andren was unassailable under the old boundaries, he was markedly more vulnerable under the new. The big question is to whom the votes Andren currently wins would flow should an Independent not follow him in the seat (and please, dear God - don't let it be Pauline Hanson! Surely she's finally got the point!). It's generally assumed that the Nationals would be the beneficiaries, though it's interesting to note that they polled fourth in Calare in the 2004 election (when both a Liberal and National candidate stood, splitting the vote - but splitting it in favour of the Liberals, who themselves were outpolled by Country Labor) and didn't have a candidate at all in Macquarie.

Perhaps the current member for Macquarie, Kerry Bartlett, will decide to shift to Calare, vacating a seat that is now nominally Labor. The recently retired NSW Attorney General, Bob Debus, has not confirmed or denied whether he will be standing for this seat, which contains much of his former State seat of Blue Mountains. It would be interesting to know what influence the absence of Andren - and perhaps even Bartlett - would have on his decision. Regardless of the candidates, this area is truly going to be one of the flashpoints of the Federal election.

As a first aside, I wonder - no, in fact, I predict - that this will be first of a number of campaigns based on wresting the balance of power from the Howard Government. It's a pretty popular issue to campaign on, but it will be extremely interesting the impact the high profile of the issue will have on the makeup of the next Senate.

As a second aside, I note that the Federal ALP requires a swing almost exactly the same as that achieved against the NSW government on the weekend to oust the current Federal government entirely.


At 10:00 am, Anonymous milltown pete said...

Given that the current mood in the electorate at large should see the Coalition lose control of the Senate, I feel a faint discomfort at the thought of this sudden scramble to hold the balance of power in that chamber.
Anyone who lived through the era of that wheezy old Papist Brian Harradine extorting disproportionate largesse from whatever Government sat next door, should surely be wary of this crown being passed to another Independent.
Peter Andren would be the least of all evils but just remember that the red-haired one declared last week (in Milltown!) that she would be a candidate.
Be afraid, be VERY afraid.

At 10:14 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

Another independent taking Calare would at least conclusively deprives the Coalition of an extra seat, but independents tend to evolve organically from popular local figures and the like - I can't think of anyone in that area who would be likely to put their hand up.

I just hope that the Red Haired One is as heartily disendorsed by the electorate as she has been in each and every attempt she has made at running for office since her initial tenure (not including `Dancing With The Stars' ...)

At 10:17 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

Your point about who might be scrambling to campaign on winning the balance of power in the Senate certainly deserves further thought.

There's surely going to be a rash of charismatic independents and new and old minor parties with weighty barrows to park on the crossbenches.

Also, if there's a last chance for the Democrats, it would have to be this.

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