AWU-backed Khalil wins Wills preselection

A former security adviser to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, Peter Khalil, has had a landslide win in the hotly contested Labor preselection in Wills.

Peter Khalil had a landslide win in Wills.
Peter Khalil had a landslide win in Wills. 

Mr Khalil, who has the backing of the Bill Shorten-aligned AWU, secured 224 primary votes out of 700 on Tuesday. 

On Wednesday evening, he received an overwhelming endorsement from Labor's 100-person Public Office Selection Committee, scoring 96.8 per cent of votes.

Mr Khalil was the right faction's endorsed candidate, and as Wills is an allocated Right seat in a stability pact with the Left, the Left supported his candidacy. 

All other candidates vying for the Federal seat, which was once held by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, withdrew at the 11th hour, with the exception of the factionally unaligned venture capitalist, Josh Funder, who secured 3.2 per cent of the central vote.


However, Mr Funder actually edged Mr Khalil in the local vote after preferences were distributed with 51.3 per cent to 48.7 per cent. 

Mr Khalil, a former SBS executive, who is also a multicultural commissioner for Victoria, dismissed suggestions that his triumph was the product of a factional deal, and proclaimed that his candidacy was a "genuine choice". 

"It was a real testament to the democratic process. People had a genuine choice and people made their decision on who they thought the best candidate was for the role.

"All the candidates worked very hard for the votes. We met with people, we had coffees, we called people and explained our beliefs, and they turned out and made their choice."

Mr Khalil said access to education, jobs, and protecting the environment, were key issues. 

Allegations of branch stacking, particularly around specific ethnic groups, have been made throughout the campaign.

Mr Khalil was viewed as the frontrunner after securing a bloc of votes through a deal with factional players, which infuriated other candidates who said it was disempowering local votes and undermining party democracy.

Mr Khalil's triumph came after competing candidate and former Moreland mayor Meghan Hopper wrote to Labor's national executive on Tuesday night, urging them to intervene to ensure a woman won the seat.

It also followed the release of a four-page pamphlet known as a "vicious dirt sheet", which detailed Mr Khalil's involvement and statements on military action in Iraq and the Middle East.

The document was a bid to make the candidate appear as a neo-conservative, and pro-Israel, in a seat that has a large Middle Eastern population and with many left-wing Palestinian sympathisers. 

Others running for the seat included a former senator and current Andrews' government adviser Mehmet Tillem, who had the backing of Stephen Conroy; Anna-Maria Arabia, a scientist and advisor to Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, and former Moreland mayor Lambros Tapinos.

The preselection was triggered by the retirement of MP Kelvin Thomson.

Mr Funder said: "I was proud to be voted the preferred candidate for Wills by ALP rank and file members from across the electorate. I congratulate Peter Khalil on his preselection."

Mr Khalil's campaign manager Theo Theophanous said the candidate "fought his way into the hearts and minds of local members with a clear vision of what is needed to represent a diverse multicultural electorate". 

"He did not bag the party's processes or the many members of ethnic and non-ethnic background that came to vote. He will take on the Greens and the Liberals and win".

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