Parachuting Olympian could 'work a treat'

Australian National University political commentator Andrew Hughes believes parachuting Nova Peris into a Northern Territory senate seat is a desperate political ploy - but one that might work a treat for Labor.

Ms Peris is well known to Canberrans, having trained and lived in the ACT for a number of years.

She said on Tuesday that she was approached ''about seven or eight years ago'' to run for the Labor Party but she was not ready then because she had small children.

In 2003, however, it was reported she was being courted by the Democrats and there was speculation she would run for the minor party to try to win an ACT Assembly seat.

Mr Hughes, whose expertise is in the realm of political branding and marketing, said a great embarrassment for the Australian Labor Party is that it has never had an indigenous member of either house of the federal Parliament.

''The Coalition has had a couple of good members who have been indigenous - the late Senator Neville Bonner and of course the current MP from Western Australia Ken Wyatt - and Labor has had none,'' Mr Hughes said.


''That must be a big frustration for Labor because it goes to the heart of their brand. It is a weakness they have had for a long time. So with this move they are playing a bit more to the left and trying to wedge the Coalition.''

He said Labor must do more than preselect an indigenous candidate, however, if it is to be taken seriously over its handling of indigenous affairs.

''It smacks of desperate politics to parachute a celebrity candidate in like this, but it could work because it is trying to say they are the party of innovation and particularly so when it comes to indigenous matters,'' Mr Hughes said.

''This will help Labor with the whole debate about recognising Aboriginal Australians in the constitution and the party will be hoping to make the Coalition look like they're way out on the far right.

''It is where Labor's strategy could win out, because there is only so far to the left the Coalition will go on indigenous affairs.''

The ANU lecturer also said the move to dump sitting senator Trish Crossin for Ms Peris signalled the end of any notion rank-and-file members had influence inside Labor.

''They didn't have much of a chance of making it all the way to preselection before this. They've got none now,'' he said.

''This is very interesting in that Nova isn't even a member of the Labor Party yet and yet she has been anointed to replace Trish Crossin who has been quite a performer.''