It was, said one Labor insider, a decision with “some hairs on it”.
Labor princeling Andrew Charlton, former economics advisor to Kevin Rudd, Oxford Rhodes scholar and Herald columnist*, has been chosen by Labor leader Anthony Albanese as the party’s candidate for the seat of Parramatta at the upcoming election.
Charlton has impeccable credentials to run for office. The only problem is, he is being parachuted into the post from his $16 million Bellevue Hill residence over local candidates from diverse backgrounds who have spent years working in the complex multicultural seat.
The decision, labelled “structural racism” and “tone deaf” by Labor locals, was a repeat of the call by Labor higher-ups to parachute Senator Kristina Keneally into the Sydney seat of Fowler.
Keneally was a resident of exclusive Scotland Island before she was installed as the candidate for the diverse south-west Sydney seat. As with Charlton, local candidates were passed over.
In the seat of Reid, where Homebush resident Sally Sitou has been pre-selected as the local candidate, the Labor party had reportedly wanted high-profile businesswoman Sam Mostyn to run (Mostyn told the Herald she was not a Labor member and “there was no possibility” she would run for Reid).
It is something both sides of politics do: recruit high-profile candidates to attract the attention of voters who might be wooed by a name they know. But politics is littered with the metaphorical bodies of such candidates, who may not last long and often flame out. So why keep doing it?
The parachuting of Keneally and Charlton into multicultural seats has the support of some, and this week the outgoing Parramatta MP Julie Owens said her replacement could be front-bench material if elected.
But their elevation has also angered locals and led to an ugly debate about Labor’s real commitment to diversity. Critics say the opportunity to bring in caucus MPs of diverse backgrounds comes along rarely, and if the party executive was truly committed they would grab this moment to install such a person in Parramatta.