Two prominent Liberal frontbenchers in Australia are set to face off in a preselection contest that may cause instability within the party ahead of the next election. Jane Hume, the opposition finance spokeswoman, has announced her intention to run for the top position on the Victorian Senate ticket, currently occupied by home affairs spokesman James Paterson.
Previously, a peace deal orchestrated before the 2019 election by former prime minister Scott Morrison and treasurer Josh Frydenberg protected Hume from conservative challengers, solidifying her position as the number two candidate on the ticket. However, Hume’s decision to challenge for the top spot pits her against the Victorian Right faction led by figures such as Paterson and Michael Sukkar.
State party president Greg Mirabella also plans to run for the third spot on the Senate ticket. The decision, which will be made at a preselection convention in November, is crucial as it will determine the Senate candidates for the federal election expected between 2024 and mid-2025.
While the top two positions on the ticket are likely to be secured by the Coalition, the third spot is uncertain, making it essential for Paterson and Hume to come to an agreement on who should run at the top. Sources suggest that the preselection contest will be intense, potentially causing disunity within the Coalition’s Senate leadership.
Both Paterson and his supporters maintain that he has the numbers within the division and has been chosen over Hume by the Victorian division in the past. Additionally, they argue that his position in Canberra’s shadow cabinet is just as senior as Hume’s. Hume’s supporters highlight her significant contributions, including overseeing the party’s election review and advocating for more female candidates.
Hume’s decision to challenge for the top spot will likely encourage opponents within the Right faction to select voting delegates who are against her, complicating the internal selection process. This may also lead to other candidates entering the field for the first and second positions, making the outcome of the preselection contest uncertain.
Overall, the preselection contest between Hume and Paterson threatens to undermine party unity in the Liberal Party and may have consequences for the Coalition’s Senate leadership.