A Three-Cornered Contest to Find a Schultz Successor?

LONG-SERVING Hume MP Alby Schultz announced recently he would not contest the next election. The news was not really surprising, given his ill-health in recent times. He has often found himself at odds with the party and has regularly had visible spats with members of the Nationals. Alby is an old-style politician.

The questions now:

  • Who will take over from Alby as the Liberal candidate?
  • Will that person be contested by a Nationals candidate?
  • What role will Hume play in the next Federal election?

Below is a selective look at Alby, Hume, and these questions.

About Hume
Hume is an inland seat covering a dozen rural shires, including Wingecarribee. It is the fifth biggest electorate in NSW. At times it has covered the whole of the Wingecarribee, but now only includes the western proportion of the Shire including Yerrinbool, Hill Top, Colo Vale, Berrima, and Bundanoon. The Shire’s main towns (Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale) were separated into the electorate of Throsby at the 2010 election.

The Australian Electoral Commission describes Hume thus:

Hume covers an area of approximately 33 637 sq km from Cowra in the north to Wee Jasper in the south and parts of the Southern Highlands from Picton and Wilton in the east to Young and Cootamundra in the west. It includes the entire local Government areas of Boorowa, Cootamundra, Cowra, Goulburn Mulwaree, Harden, Upper Lachlan, Weddin, Yass Valley and Young Councils and parts of Palerang, Wingecarribee and Wollondilly Shires. Towns include Bargo, Binalong, Boorowa, Bundanoon, Buxton, Caragabal, Colo Vale, Cootamundra, Cowra, Crookwell, Gooloogong, Grenfell, Gundaroo, Gunning, Harden/Murrumburrah, High Range, Hill Top, Joadja, Jugiong, Marulan, Murrumbateman, Oakdale, Picton, Quandialla, Stockinbingal, Sutton, Tahmoor, Tarago, The Oaks, Thirlmere, Wallendbeen, Wilton, Yass, Young and the City of Goulburn.

Hume covers the site of the proposed second Sydney airport site, which Alby has expressed his opposition to.

Alby’s Announcement

As 2012 is the commencement of my 25th year in State and Federal politics as the elected Liberal Member representing the Liberal Party of Australia (NSW Div) I have advised the New South Wales State Director Mr Mark Neeham that I will not be contesting the next election. The time is right for me to move on and allow the Liberal brand to be maintained in Hume by a capable committed Liberal.
After much thought I have made the decision that I will not contest the next election as I believe a new Liberal candidate in Hume will have a fresh approach and a willingness to work hard in Hume. As the longest serving Member for Hume since Federation, it is with mixed feelings that I have reached this conclusion. I feel it is time for me to move on despite wanting to continue serving the electorate that I feel so deeply and passionately about.
I have and will always be grateful to the people in Hume for the privilege and honour they gave me to represent them at two levels of Government.
The support, loyalty and friendship shown to my wife and me is testament to the spontaneous generosity of all Australians. We have made many friends from all walks of life, of all political persuasions and for this we will be eternally grateful.
The residents of Young and Harden Shires are uniquely placed to be congratulated for their patience and indeed tolerance in supporting me “warts and all” as their local member continuously for the past twenty five years.
I encourage those Liberal Party members who will participate in the candidates’ pre-selection process for the Hume electorate, and indeed the Gilmore electorate, to be mindful of the need to select a Liberal best suited to secure the seat and serve them and the community with honour and distinction.
I look forward in my spare time to giving my son Grant Schultz my full support should he be pre-selected as the candidate for the Gilmore electorate.
After service to three levels of government it is time for me to step aside. I am deeply appreciative of the opportunity to try and make changes for the better in Hume. I will of course continue to work hard for my constituents up until the day before Polling Day.

You’ll notice Alby referred to his son Grant contesting the pre-selection for the neighbouring seat of Gilmore. This seat is currently held by Joanna Gash, who will retire at the election and is contesting the Mayoralty of Shoalhaven City Council. The Illawarra Mercury recently reported Grant lost the pre-selection to former Kiama Councillor Ann Sudmalis, who works in Jo Gash’s office. Schultz ran third to Sudmalis and Andrew Guile.

Alby did not mention the Nationals at all in this statement, referring only to the Liberal pre-selection campaign for the seat. Both are discussed below.

Liberal for Hume
According to the Southern Highland News, the candidates so far for Hume pre-selection include:

  • Mittagong-based accountant Rick Mandelson
  • Yass grazier Ed Storey
  • Yass-based IT executive and olive grower Ross Hampton
  • Sydney lawyer Angus Taylor
  • Sydney seafood magnate Peter Doyle.

Whispers have it that Taylor has peppered potential pre-selectors with a glossy brochure showing numerous rural-themed images of himself and his family. According to The Canberra Times, the brochure also features endorsements from NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell and Tony Abbott, while Alby is reportedly also endorsing Taylor. We’ll keep an eye on this battle.

National for Hume
As hinted above, Alby has often had a terse relationship with the Nationals. He’s continued that trend by “warning” the Nationals not to contest the seat. However, they have a right to contest under the Coalition agreement, which says either party can contest when a sitting member retires. If Schultz had battled on, the Nats would have been prohibited from standing. They are also both allowed to contest Labor-held seats. The Nationals have indicated they will contest Hume. Rumours abound that State Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson will contest the seat, while Nationals Senator Fiona Nash is also rumoured to be interested. Given Hodgkinson has only recently won a NSW State election and been sworn into the Ministry, her pre-selection would probably annoy Premier O’Farrell, who needs no distractions in his first term of government. Interestingly, Hodgkinson succeeded Alby when he stepped down from the state electorate of Burrinjuck to contest Hume. Crikey said out the Nats were sniffing around Hume just before the 2010 election, but Scultz didn’t retire that time. However, the candidate they mentioned (Alan Hay) did stand for Throsby, and may poke his head up again.

For her part, Hodgkinson released a statement praising Schultz that smacked of a campaign launch:

I believe that the electors of Hume deserve to be represented by a new member who can match Mr Schultz’s deep background knowledge and broad experience with important country issues and extensive understanding of parliamentary procedures

What about Hume at the next election?
Hume is a safe-ish seat, according to the ABC’s Antony Green. With an 8.7% margin, it is about middle of the pack. Present indications are for a swing against the Labor Government, which suggests Hume will remain in Coalition hands. The real question is which Coalition party will win it. In a three-cornered contest, it might seem logical to say the two conservative parties will split their votes and Labor will win. However, the Nationals and the Coalition will probably trade preferences to each other, so if either finishes first with Labor second, they will retain the seat. It is likely the Coalition member for Hume will be part of a new Tony Abbott Government.

Given it covers the proposed Wilton Airport site, the next MP could play a pivotal role in whether Sydney gets its second airport or not.

Download a large, detailed map of Hume here [PDF].

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