MIKE Kelly has taken the first step in what he hopes will be his eventual return as Member for Eden-Monaro this week, nominating for the NSW senate seat vacated by Bob Carr on Wednesday.
The Queanbeyan-based politician and former Labor minister for Defence Materiel was defeated by incoming Liberal MP Peter Hendy at the recent federal election. He’s now up against Deb O’Neill for the vacant senate spot. Ms O’Neill is another Labor former House of Representatives MP who was recently defeated in the seat of Robertson.
Dr Kelly told The Queanbeyan Age that he felt he still had unfinished business in Eden-Monaro, and that he’d use the senate seat as a platform to re-contest the seat of Eden-Monaro in 2016 if he’s successful in winning the nomination.
“I’ve thrown my hat in the ring,” Dr Kelly said on Wednesday.
“I’ve had a lot of (job) offers put to me that would be much better paying and very interesting stuff- the sort of things that I would have looked to have done had I voluntarily left parliament or the army.
“Those would all be really attractive, and I’m sort of weighing those up. But when I left the army in 2007 I made a commitment to the region and fixing our defence and security policy, so I’m inclined to see that through, and recontest Eden-Monaro in 2016.
“If I was in the senate, that would be my commitment, to recontest the seat at the next federal election,” he said.
However the new member for Eden-Monaro, Peter Hendy, told The Queanbeyan Age last week that Dr Kelly was having trouble accepting defeat in the bellwether seat.
"Good luck to him in what he does but...(but) I think we're seeing a very big dose of relevancy depravation syndrome," Mr Hendy said
However Dr Kelly will first have to sway the Labor Right faction in NSW, and particularly The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association (SDA), Australia’s largest Trade Union. The SDA is believed to be backing Ms O’Neill, who is considered the more socially conservative candidate.
Dr Kelly flew to Sydney on Thursday to make a case for his senate bid to Labor’s NSW state secretary, Jamie Clements.
He said he’d emphasise the development potential in Eden-Monaro and said he could work towards building that from the senate.
“I had a broad vision for the future of Eden-Monaro...but specifically what I was working on locally, to set our local economy on a really sound track for the future, building on our renewable energy potential, our tourism potential and our advatages that we could gain from the NBN and high tech investment.
“And if I was in the senate, it would actually give me the platform to continue that work anyway,” he said.
Nominations for the vacant senate seat close midday next Wednesday, with the administrative committee to conduct a ballot that afternoon before announcing the winner after 4pm.