Bracks may plunge into Roxon seat
Former Victorian premier Steve Bracks has emerged as a possible star candidate to replace Nicola Roxon in her safe seat of Gellibrand.
Multiple senior sources said the seat, which overlaps Mr Bracks' former state seat of Williamstown, was his if he wanted it. The popular ex-premier lives in the seat and is being touted as a natural fit.
''He just needs to say the word,'' one prominent Labor figure said. ''There is a lot of organic support for Steve Bracks in the area. There are factional issues, but if he wants it no one will be able to stop it.''
Another senior source said that although the Victorian Right, heavily influenced by Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, had the numbers, it would be impossible to deny Mr Bracks the opportunity.
But it remains unclear whether Mr Bracks, who has been on a walking holiday in Tasmania and could not be contacted, is prepared to re-enter politics at the federal level following his shock decision to retire as premier in July 2007.
And Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday described Mr Bracks as a ''great bloke'' but urged people to wait and see what occurred in the preselection process.
There are also questions surrounding a deal to install Senator David Feeney - one of the so-called faceless men who helped to make Julia Gillard prime minister - in a safe lower house seat.
Senator Feeney, who occupies the No. 3 position on Labor's Victorian Senate ticket, is seen as unlikely to be re-elected, given Labor's standing in published opinion polls.
Under the terms of an alliance joining his right-wing faction with the dominant Labor Unity faction, Senator Feeney was promised a safe lower house seat, allowing him to remain in Parliament.
Since the deal, however, Senator Feeney is said to have ''fallen out with a lot of people who used to be his friend''.
''There is no reason why he would have to get Gellibrand,'' said a Bracks supporter. ''There are plenty of people who no longer buy this.''
Close allies said Mr Bracks - who sits on several boards and recently led an inquiry for the Gillard government into the car industry and took on a pro-bono advising role in East Timor - was enjoying life out of politics and would need to convince his wife and family of any return.
Speculation that Mr Bracks would be given a safe Labor seat emerged after former NSW premier Bob Carr was parachuted into a Senate position to become Foreign Minister. Ms Gillard has since also announced a Senate position for former athlete Nova Peris.
Bracks supporters have also expressed concern that rumours of his political return may havebeen deliberately fuelled to undermine any likelihood that he may decide to stand.
With the possibility of further Labor resignations before the September 14 election not being ruled out, the process to preselect candidates could take up to two months.
The Bracks speculation came as the latest Newspoll survey published in The Australian showed support for Labor has sunk. The poll puts Labor’s primary support at 32 per cent - a wipeout of the six-point gain recorded between December and January - as the Coalition’s support rose four percentage points to 48 per cent in the past three weeks.
Ms Gillard on Sunday tried to rally Labor’s candidates, telling them they were the frontline troops tasked with taking the government’s message to voters. In an address to an ALP gathering in Canberra, Ms Gillard said it was critical that candidates understood and promoted Labor’s core policy principles and programs, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
With JESSICA WRIGHT, AAP
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