A quiet revolution taking place in Tamworth
This month the NSW Nationals decided to trial a new system that would allow the general public and not just party members to select its parliamentary candidates.
The system, termed community pre-selections, will be trialled on 31 July next year in the northern NSW seat of Tamworth, now held by independent Peter Draper.
The Nats say it is about getting rid of the disconnect between the people who decide the candidate – often a handful of men – and the people who decide who becomes the Member of Parliament.
“This is about opening things up and breathing air into the process,” said the Nationals Nathan Quigley, who wrote the original position paper supporting community pre-selections.
“It is not so much about deliberately changing the type of candidates we are putting into parliament. It is about connecting pre-selections back to the community, identifying the candidate they want and putting them into parliament.”
Like a regular pre-selection, candidates have to be party members and nominate in the normal way. And like a regular campaign, these potential MPs promote themselves in the normal way through advertising, doorknocking and fronting public meetings organised by the party.
But unlike a regular pre-selection, selectors are not locked in a room all day with candidates and subjected to hours of speeches, questions and tepid coffee. Nor is there any opportunity to stack.
The vote takes place on 31 July where the electorate’s registered voters cast their ballot at polling place and have their name crossed off.
The seat of Tamworth was chosen for a two reasons: first, the Nationals wanted to experiment with an electorate they could win (Draper holds the seat with a 4.79% margin). Second, they didn’t want to subject a sitting member to the process.
The idea of community pre-selections was trialled by the Conservatives in the UK, following the stink about the recent expenses rorts. In fact, ahead of next year’s UK general election, the Tories will hold open primaries for all nine Tory MPs stood down as part of the expenses scandal.
The first of these was in August this year in the seat of Totnes, in the south-west English city of Devon, where nearly one-quarter of the enrolled voters in the seat participated in the pre-selection vote. The Tories first trialled open community votes in the 2005 General Election.
London Mayor Boris Johnson and the Shadow Higher Education Minister Rob Wilson were both selected via community preselections.
The concept has strong precedent within the party. In its early years The Nats did not pre-select contenders, preferring to endorse multiple candidates and then letting the voters decide on polling day.
This practice was abandoned after Labor introduced optional preferential voting to NSW in 1979.
The Tamworth experiment fits in with The Nats’ view of themselves, that is, a party that is faction-free and owned by its grassroots, rather than head-office machine men.
It will be interesting to see the breadth of the nominations next year. Already, local councillor Russell Douglas has put up his hand with more expected to follow.
Of course, it will mean little unless The Nats can actually win the seat. In 2007, the party had a strong candidate in Kevin Anderson but he went down to the popular incumbent.
Whether this experiment will secure more talented candidates is hard to gauge. But at least the candidates will be more representative of the regional area they represent. And for that at least, it should be encouraged.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
KRudd gives marriage equality folk hope, but odds still against it passing on June 6. http://t.co/QmQffMkSvH
ACL says gay marriage would lead to gay sex (how to do it) being taught in schools. You really haver to credit them with vivid imagination.
Welcome to your wombiverse. On orgasmic births and being so happy you could cry http://t.co/7JrbQSCV6j
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…