Peris running again... for the Senate
Julia Gillard has endorsed Olympic gold medalist Nova Peris to top Labor's Northern Territory Senate ticket, bypassing normal pre-selection processes.PT1M53S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2d4f3 620 349 January 22, 2013
Julia Gillard's ''captain's pick'' is a bold move and, at one level, very hard to dispute.
Of course Labor should have a well-qualified indigenous candidate in a winnable federal seat. It should have had an indigenous MP in the national Parliament long ago.
And there is no doubt that Nova Peris is a good name.
But the process is unfortunate.
Admittedly backbencher Trish Crossin has had a good innings, and was never going to rise further in her parliamentary career.
Politics is a tough business, and sometimes people get rough treatment.
But for a party that has been agonising over ways to reinvigorate its membership, it is not a great look to have the preselection process so dramatically hijacked. The one real power rank-and-filers have is selection of candidates.
For Gillard, her demand that Peris be put into the Senate spot is double-edged.
She is taking an important and historic step. As yet no Aboriginal woman has sat in the Federal Parliament. The PM has asserted her authority in a good cause.
But the way she has treated Crossin will raise a comparison with what she and her supporters did – on a much greater scale – to Kevin Rudd. The negotiations with Peris have been under way for weeks. But it was only on Monday that Gillard told Crossin what was happening. There is, however, some protection for the PM.
It will be hard for the opposition to make too much of the ''coup'' against Crossin, because there are risks for it in going in too hard against Peris. The Gillard exercise is more than about history and having an indigenous MP. It is also about appealing to the Aboriginal voters in the marginal Labor seat of Lingiari, held by minister Warren Snowdon. Lingiari is winnable for the Coalition, one reason Tony Abbott was so anxious to get NT Aboriginal politician Alison Anderson to stand for him (an offer she rejected).
Last year’s Northern Territory election, which Labor lost, showed that the indigenous vote is no longer something the ALP can rely on. It will be up for grabs from one election to the next.
So Peris is a pawn in a larger political game, as well as now being destined to set another personal record.
She has been accorded the rare privilege of a gold-plated ride into Parliament. Her preselection is guaranteed, as is her seat.
But she is also being used by her new political patrons, and within Labor some will resent the way she is sliding in. (Ask Peter Garrett about the legacy of the fast track for a star candidate.)
Her inexperience showed in the acute nerves on display at Tuesday’s news conference. The months ahead will be hard learning. Her big long-term challenge will be to show she is not just someone else’s lustre but a woman who can perform strongly in her own right, for indigenous people and her non-indigenous constituents, too.