SITTING Hume MP Alby Schultz has thrown down the gauntlet to The Nationals after his favoured candidate, Angus Taylor, convincingly snared Liberal Party pre-selection for the seat on Saturday.
Mr Taylor, 44, beat off Ed Storey, Ross Hampton and Rick Mandelson in the ballot, decided by 33 selectors at the Goulburn Soldiers Club.
The Goulburn Post understands Mr Taylor captured 26 votes, with the rest dispersed between the other three candidates. Party officials refused to comment on the process or allow Mr Taylor to speak to media until the state executive endorsed him, possibly this week.
Observers and selectors were also forbidden to talk publicly. But an exuberant Mr Schultz said the result was a popular one and “lived up to (his) expectations.”
The win almost certainly sets the stage for a three-cornered contest in Hume given Mr Schultz’s retirement at the next election.
But it’s likely to hot up soon. Mr Schultz, a vocal critic of The Nationals, said Mr Taylor would take them on.
“(My advice is) go out there and debate them,” he said.
“This bloke has a greater capacity to appeal to the people than any candidate The Nationals can put up… His debating skills are something The Nationals won’t want to face in the public arena.”
Nationals Senator for NSW, Fiona Nash, is the hotly tipped candidate for Hume but party hierarchy says it has at least 12 interested nominees.
Senator Nash has been turning up at functions throughout Hume, though not in official ‘campaign mode.’ Mr Schultz, who won two three-cornered contests, issued a blunt message on Saturday.
“They’ve talked about 12 candidates and whether it’s Fiona Nash or (state Primary Industries Minister) Katrina Hodgkinson,” he said.
“My message is, if you have a candidate, let the people know and stop playing around. If you really want to get into government, use the money you’re wasting on three-cornered contests on marginal Labor seats and give your party some credibility.”
Meantime, Mr Schultz said he’d be doing everything to raise Mr Taylor’s profile, starting with a debutante ball in Young last Saturday night attended by some 700 people.
Mr Taylor moved to Goulburn with his wife and four children six months ago.
He was born and raised around Cooma where his family is well known cattle and sheep graziers. He was educated at Nimmitabel and The King’s School, Parramatta.
The Sydney University Law and Economics graduate is also a Rhodes Scholar and has an Oxford Masters degree in Economics. He is a co-founder and management consultant with Growth Farms Australia, which has $300 million in agricultural assets under its umbrella. Mr Taylor also sits on the NSW Liberal Party’s finance committee.
He looked a relieved man after Saturday’s two and a half hour pre-selection, surrounded by family and supporters. Moments earlier, the four candidates waited nervously in the corridor for the ballot outcome. Each had delivered a 12- minute presentation and faced questions.
Thirty representatives from Hume’s Liberal Party branches and proxy votes from the state president, country vice-president and Opposition leader Tony Abbott, decided their fate.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Friday that Mr Hampton was “crying foul” that Mr Abbott had nominated Mr Schultz, a well known Taylor supporter, as his proxy at the pre-selection.
However, Mr Schultz said it was Mr Abbott’s vote, not his, and he was simply carrying out the leader’s wishes.
Mr Abbott had supplied a reference for Mr Taylor. Mr Schultz believed Mr Taylor’s pre-selection opened a new era on Liberal representation in Hume. He contrasted his meatworker beginnings with Mr Taylor’s background and youth and forecast his swift rise in party ranks if elected.
“He has a task ahead of him to convince the electorate he is the person who can deliver for them,” Mr Schultz said.
“...He has something different to offer and there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be an effective member should he be chosen.”
He said Mr Taylor wasn’t the type of person to play “nasty politics” in a three-cornered contest.
Despite his criticism of The Nationals, Mr Schultz believed they should amalgamate with the Liberal Party to form a powerful rural voting bloc.
“Angus has already had offers from prominent people in the National Party across Hume that if elected, they’ll work for him,” the MP said.
“So there’s a message there that people need to take note of.” Mr Schultz has held Hume since 1998, having won it from The Nationals John Sharp.