The South Australian Liberal Party turned down a shortlist offer from a former staff member who was outspoken about the party’s treatment of women.
- Chelsey Potter has been denied shortlisting by the Liberal Party SA at Bragg
- She is now considering running as an independent in the post previously held by Deputy Prime Minister Vickie Chapman.
- Mrs Potter’s support for independent MPs in state elections is an issue behind the Liberal Party’s call.
Chelsey Potter has spoken publicly about allegedly being sexually assaulted by another Liberal Party staffer when they were both working in Canberra in 2015.
Since then, she has been an outspoken critic of the party’s response to her attack and the broader issues affecting women in politics.
She said she decided to run for the shortlist for Bragg’s by-election when it looked like no other women were nominated following Vickie Chapman’s decision to resign.
“I think this is a pivotal moment for the Liberal Party,” Potter said.
“We have seen a massive electoral drop in the last two consecutive state and federal elections.
“The electorate is sending us a clear message and I wanted to be a part of that rebuilding process.”
Mrs Potter was told her application was unsuccessful this morning, following a meeting of the party’s state executive last night.
She said it was because she was not a member of the party for the required three months before the nomination.
“A lot of times, and I’ve been in the state executive before, a special waiver is given to candidates who don’t have that three-month membership period under their belt,” he said.
“I find it interesting that that wasn’t the case for me.”
Liberal leader David Speirs said he backed the party’s decision.
“The screening process is an administrative matter for the Liberal Party,” Speirs said.
“I sat on the candidate review committee and was comfortable with the decision to reject Ms. Potter’s candidacy.
“We have four great young candidates moving forward and they will now present their case to the local grassroots liberal members who live in the Bragg headquarters.”
Support from independents is a problem
One of the reasons behind her decision was Ms Potter’s work campaigning for independent candidates through her political consultancy, Suffragette Group, which aims to help more women enter politics.
That includes Lou Nicholson, who came close to winning Finniss’s liberal seat in state elections, and Liz Habermann, who contested Gray’s regional seat in federal elections.
“I’m a strategic advisor, political candidates hire me the same way clients hire a lawyer,” Potter said.
“Given how successful my candidates have been, I was hoping that the Liberal Party had committed to my services so that they could use that skill and experience to improve the party, but they chose not to hire my consultancy and that was a real shame.” .”
Independent career not ruled out
Four people managed to get the shortlist for Bragg: two women and two men.
That includes barrister Jack Batty, who worked as a Liberal staffer and as adviser to the Australian High Commissioner in London, former Democratic candidate, Liberal staffer and director of the Republican movement Sandy Biar, barrister Melissa Jones and care businesswoman physician Cara Miller.
Both Ms. Jones and Ms. Miller were also candidates in last year’s Waite shortlist.
“Naturally I’m excited that there are women in the race because until the last minute it looked like for Bragg there would be no women in the pre-selection race,” said Ms Potter.
“I’ll be watching that shortlist hoping they’ll elect a woman to represent them, but what I’m hearing in the background is that the big favorite is a male candidate.”
If a man replaces Ms Chapman, she will leave the party with just two women in the South Australian House of Assembly.
Now officially out of the Liberal shortlist race, Mrs Potter has not ruled out standing in the by-election as an independent.
“I know there has been a lot of speculation, but I really wanted to represent the Liberal Party. As a result, I have been inundated with calls, texts and private emails from Liberal Party members and ex-Liberals who are exceptionally supportive.” she said.
“I’m focused on getting back to them now and having a conversation about what this means, what they’re thinking, what direction they want the party to go in.”
The pre-selection vote will take place on June 5.
Aware , updated