THE Mornington Peninsula is facing possibly the biggest ever change to its political landscape.
None of the familiar faces of multiple past elections will be contesting next year’s federal or state polls.
Chris Brayne, first-term Labor MP for Nepean, is the only current MP on the peninsula who will be contesting the election.
First-up for voters (possibly as early as March) to decide will be the federal seat of Flinders, left vacant by the retirement of Greg Hunt, who has held it for the Liberal Party for 20 years.
The Liberal candidate will not be officially endorsed until early next year, but the frontrunner favoured by Mr Hunt is Zoe McKenzie, a former adviser to former trade minister Andrew Robb, an NBN director and board member of lobby group Committee for Mornington Peninsula.
Ms McKenzie says she is “stepping back [from her own business] over the summer” to seek Liberal Party preselection.
She has also “ceased” her roles on various boards, including the Committee for Mornington Peninsula.
The Labor Party has endorsed Surbhi Snowball as its candidate for Flinders while Voices of Mornington Peninsula on the weekend announced it would back Claire Boardman and former Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Cr Despi O’Connor is standing as an independent.
Cr O’Connor, a teacher, announced her decision to stand after being ruled out (from a short list of six) from being backed by the Voices group.
To clear the way for campaigning, the group’s choice, Ms Boardman, has resigned as deputy public health commander of the state health and human services department’s infection prevention and control COVID-19 team.
Ms Snowball, Labor’s candidate, has a background in small business, including banking and agriculture.
While long held by the Liberals – former defence minister Peter Reith “handed the baton” to Mr Hunt two decades ago – Mr Hunt’s margin has been whittled down to 5.6 per cent.
Threats to the peninsula’s physical landscape through climate or planning regulation change are likely to figure strongly in candidates’ campaigns.
Coincidentally, Mr Hunt’s father Alan Hunt, is credited with being an architect of the green wedge, seen as one of the peninsula’s greatest protections against over-development.
Although the state election is not until November, the Liberal Party has already preselected candidates for the seats of Hastings and Mornington.
Perhaps the biggest shock to peninsula political watchers came last week when Chris Crewther was chosen as the Liberal candidate for Mornington over the incumbent, David Morris, who has held the seat since 2006.
Mr Crewther was elected to the federal seat of Dunkley in 2016 after the resignation of 20-year incumbent Bruce Billson but lost to Labor’s Peta Murphy in 2019 after one term.
Mr Crewther failed to gain his party’s preselection for Dunkley this year (won by criminal lawyer and Australian Survivor guest Sharn Coombes) but defeated Mr Morris in an 80 to 60 vote in his bid to move to the state seat.
Labor seems set to choose television fishing show presenter and close associate of the Premier Daniel Andrews, David Kramer, as its Mornington candidate.
The Committee for Mornington Peninsula’s executive officer, Briony Hutton, has been preselected as the Liberal candidate for the state seat of Hastings, left vacant by the retiring Liberal MP Neale Burgess.
She will be up against Cr Paul Mercurio, choreographer, media personality and foodie.
The state and federal elections could also affect the balance of power within Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
Cr O’Connor will this week take leave of absence from the council to begin campaigning as an independent for Flinders in the federal election.
The focus would then be on her colleague Paul Mercurio, if chosen by Labor in Hastings, to follow her example and also step down from the council.
The Liberal Party has yet to select its candidate for the state seat of Nepean, held for Labor by Chris Brayne since 2018.
Suggested contenders for the seat held by Liberal Martin Dixon from 1996 until his retirement in 2018 are Elizabeth Woolcock and David Burgess.