Nationals Member for Northern Victoria Luke O’Sullivan says the major parties are finding it increasingly difficult to find high-calibre candidates to run in regional seats, with many vacancies remaining across the state ahead of the state election.
Bendigo West is one of 17 lower house seats without representation from both the Liberal and Labor parties. Regional Victoria has 33 seats.
Mr O’Sullivan said while he expected candidates to appear across these seats in coming weeks, the idea of running for a political party was becoming less appealing, due in part to the drama perennially unfolding on a federal level.
Scott Morrison was sworn in as Australia's seventh prime minister in 11 years last month after a Liberal party revolt against Malcolm Turnbull.
“People have seen that (leadership challenges across both parties), don't like what they see and are not willing to put themselves forward to put their hat in the ring,” he said. “It's becoming more of a challenge to find high-calibre, appropriate candidates to run. People are very busy in their personal businesses and private lives, politics is not something as favourable as what it was.”
In Bendigo West, the first person earmarked for the position for the Liberal Party did not follow through with the candidacy earlier this year after much deliberation, while a more recent option was not deemed suitable by party executives following a recent meeting.
That followed the failed candidacy of Jack Lyons in 2014, who stepped down for the seat of Bendigo West after it was revealed he had made racist and sexist comments on Facebook, including referring to Bendigo’s Dai Gum San Chinese precinct as the “ching chong gardens”.
Mr O’Sullivan was critical of Labor’s perceived regional inaction – failing to announce candidates for seats of Shepparton, Mildura, Lowan, Murray Plains or Euroa.
Bendigo West has Greens candidate Laurie Whelan and Labor MP Maree Edwards while Bendigo East has Labor MP Jacinta Allan, Liberal candidate Ian Ellis, Nationals candidate Gaelle Broad and Greens candidate Nakita Thomson.
Victorians head to the polls on November 24.