UNION official Lisa Chesters will represent Labor at next year’s federal election in Bendigo after the shock withdrawal of a high-profile candidate.
Petersen Westbrook Cameron legal firm director Greg Westbrook was the first candidate to put up his hand for preselection but failed to formally nominate yesterday.
He wrote to party members to announce his withdrawal and stated he didn’t believe he could win the support of Labor factional leaders.
Ms Chesters, 32, is a union official with United Voices and the Bendigo Trades Hall.
“Yes, I have been endorsed,” Ms Chesters said yesterday. “I am preparing to make an announcement early next week.”
Sources yesterday said they were shocked at the withdrawal of Mr Westbrook, who has since thrown his support behind Ms Chesters.
Labor preselection includes a vote of local members, worth 50 per cent, and a vote from Labor’s Public Office Selection Committee.
“As POSC is highly factionised, I would need to win a very large percentage of the local vote to convince them I should get the nomination, as I am not in a faction,” Mr Westbrook wrote.
“While I have had strong support across Bendigo and Castlemaine, I do not enjoy the same level of support in Woodend and Kyneton.
“Realistically, I would need to win over 60 per cent of the local vote to sway POSC but I believe I would fall short of that.” Bendigo is a left faction seat. Ms Chesters is a member of the left.
The seat had been a designated right seat until incumbent federal MP Steve Gibbons, who will retire at the next election, won preselection in 1997.
Labor state MPs Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan and Mr Gibbons, the longest serving federal Bendigo MP, are all members of the left.
United Voices is the union that was previously called the LHMU, a union Mr Gibbons worked for.
Labor sources yesterday described Ms Chesters as a hardworking, loyal party member who had been an active member for “many years”.
Nominations for preselection closed at noon yesterday. Ms Chesters was the only candidate to nominate.
Both Ms Chesters and Mr Westbrook had participated in candidate forums.
Bendigo West MP Maree Edwards said Ms Chesters would reinvigorate the political landscape in Bendigo.
“She is best placed to make sure that Bendigo is not returned to an Abbott-led Coalition government that will wind back conditions for working people,” she said.
Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan, currently on maternity leave, also offered a glowing endorsement.
“I look forward to working closely with Lisa,” she said. “It is very important that Bendigo has a strong Labor representative in Canberra to protect Bendigo workers and their families.”
The Liberal Party has three candidates for Bendigo preselection – Kangaroo Flat’s Jack Lyons, Bendigo’s Greg Bickley and Sedgwick’s Peter Wiseman.
Party members will preselect a candidate at the end of the month.