Labor revolt threat in Page
By Alex Easton THE Labor Party faces revolt among its Page members if it pushes ahead with a plan to bypass preselection and anoint Clarence mayor Ian Tiley as candidate.
No official announcement about a Page candidate has been made by the party's State or Federal executive, but the Lismore branch president Kevin Bell said he was told by an official at the party's National Conference that the Page preselection would be scrapped and Mr Tiley named candidate.
Mr Bell declined to name the official, but said he was from NSW Labor's Sussex Street head office and that the official told him: "We know he (Mr Tiley) wouldn't win a rank and file preselection, so we have to nominate him ourselves."
Those comments triggered outrage among local Labor members, with sources saying the party's State and Federal offices had this week been bombarded by 'hundreds and hundreds' of emails and letters from angry members demanding a grassroots preselection.
Amongst those were warnings of a local revolt, with at least two members threatening to stand as independents if there were no grassroots preselection.
Other threatened consequences included members quitting the party, quitting their branch or being 'curiously unavailable' when it came time to help with the campaign.
Mr Bell said he could not force his members to help with the campaign and said members from other branches may also boycott the campaign if head office parachuted a candidate into the seat.
Mr Tiley said he had not made a final decision about standing and had not tried to gauge how members would back him at preselection.
He said he would prefer a grassroots preselection, but 'this is not my doing'.
"I'm hearing that the Federal leadership wants quality candidates and I have no control over that," he said.
Sources said they understood Mr Tiley had pushed for the head office nomination, arguing that Page would be won in Grafton.
If given the seat, Mr Tiley would face off against Nationals candidate and fellow Clarence Valley councillor Chris Gulaptis, who has already outpolled Mr Tiley in an election ? most recently at the last council election.
A total of four Labor members have expressed interest standing in Page, including former State MP Janelle Saffin, recent State election candidate Peter Lanyon, political newcomer Isaac Smith, and Mr Tiley.
Ms Saffin, Mr Lanyon, and Mr Smith yesterday said they had no objection to high-profile candidates being dropped into a seat when they were of the calibre of former Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett.
However, each said the line-up for the Page preselection offered party members a rich choice of candidates. Mr Smith said he had no problem with losing preselection, but had put in enough time and money to earn the right to be considered.
"I want the chance to fight the battle," he said. "Win or lose, I want the opportunity."
Former Page Federal Electorate Council chairwoman Sue Dakin confirmed she was one of the members who had threatened to quit if preselection were scrapped.
If she quit, Ms Dakin said she would not go alone, with 'a number' of members interested in joining a walk-out.
Labor's NSW assistant general secretary, Karl Bitar, said Page was among four seats in NSW where preselections had been delayed, but was unable to say why.