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Vince.Tari at nmhg.com
Sat May 1 04:00:42 MDT 2004
ALP bid for Garrett, Phelps
By Megan Saunders
May 1, 2004
LABOR has tried to recruit high-profile figures Peter Garrett and Kerryn
Phelps to contest key NSW seats at the federal election.
The Weekend Australian has learned that senior ALP figures earlier this year
discussed a plan to run Mr Garrett, president of the Australian Conservation
Foundation and former Midnight Oil frontman, in the Illawarra seat of
Around the same time, Dr Phelps, a former Australian Medical Association
president, spoke to ALP figures about the option of running in the exclusive
Sydney seat of Wentworth.
But the discussions - not long after Mark Latham replaced Simon Crean as
federal leader - happened too late. Rank-and-file preselections for two
local candidates had already been held and neither were prepared to stand
Cunningham is an important seat for Labor to regain after suffering an
embarrassing by-election loss in 2002 that saw Greens candidate Michael
Organ win the party's only lower house seat.
Mr Garrett has strong environmental credentials and popular appeal, and
strategists believed he would help win back some of the Left vote that
deserted the party in the Tampa election.
A star candidate like Dr Phelps in Wentworth, would have taken on the Howard
Government on key election issues such as Medicare - and been stiff
competition for one of the Liberal Party's most high-profile candidates,
But the plan faltered, largely because of timing.
The move came months after rank-and-file preselections elected Sharon Bird
as the party's Cunningham candidate and David Patch as the Wentworth
candidate. Neither was prepared to move aside when tapped on the shoulder by
senior ALP officials, and it is understood there has been some "disquiet"
within the party that the preselections were held so early in the first
"The idea was that Garrett would be good for Latham," a Canberra source
said. "Garrett is keen to run but there is no seat for him. He wants to run
in a safe seat. "Kerryn Phelps had spoken to a few people - she was
Mr Garrett declined yesterday to reveal any discussions that "may or may not
have happened". Dr Phelps also had no comment, saying only: "I'm considering
my position". There has been some speculation she may run as an independent.
Ms Bird made it clear she would not move. "At the by-election we got a clear
message from the people that they expect the party to abide by its
democratic processes, and out of respect we have had a full rank-and-file
preselection process," Ms Bird said yesterday. "I'm the endorsed candidate
as a result of that." Mr Patch said: "I intend to remain the Labor
candidate, I intend to campaign strongly, and I intend to win."