The South Australian Liberal Party has rejected a pre-selection bid from a former staffer who has openly criticized the party’s treatment of women.
- Chelsey Potter has been denied pre-selection by the SA Liberal Party in Bragg
- She is now considering running as an independent in the seat formerly held by deputy premier Vickie Chapman
- Ms Potter’s support of independent MPs at the state election is one issue behind the Liberal Party’s call
Chelsey Potter has spoken publicly about being allegedly sexually assaulted by another Liberal Party staffer when they were both working in Canberra in 2015.
Since then, she has been openly critical of the party’s response to her assault, and wider issues affecting women in politics.
She said she decided to run for the pre-selection for the Bragg by-election when it appeared no other women were nominating following Vickie Chapman’s decision to resign.
“I think it’s a very crucial time for the Liberal Party,” Ms Potter said.
“We’ve seen a massive electoral fall out over the last two back-to-back state and federal elections.
“The electorate is sending us a clear message and I wanted to be part of that rebuilding process.”
Ms 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 party member for the required three months before nominating.
“Often times, and I’ve sat on the state executive before, special dispensation is given to candidates who don’t have that three-month membership period under their belts,” she said.
“I find it interesting that wasn’t the case for me.”
Liberal leader David Speirs said he backed the party’s decision.
“The pre-selection vetting process is an administrative matter for the Liberal Party,” Mr Speirs said.
“I sat on the candidate review committee and I was comfortable with the decision to disallow Ms Potter’s candidacy.
“We have four great young candidates moving forward and they will now put their case to local grassroots Liberal members living in the seat of Bragg.”
Support of independents an issue
One of the reasons behind her decision was Ms Potter’s work on campaigns for independent candidates through her political consultancy, Suffragette Group, which aims to support more women to enter politics.
That includes Lou Nicholson, who came close to winning the Liberal safe seat of Finniss at the state election, and Liz Habermann who contested the regional seat of Gray in the federal election.
“I’m a strategic adviser, I’m engaged by political candidates much like a lawyer would be engaged by clients,” Ms Potter said.
“Given the success that my candidates have had, I’d hoped the Liberal Party might have engaged with my services so I could use that skill and experience to better the party, but they chose not to engage my consultancy and that was a real shame “
Independent run not ruled out
Four people have been successful in gaining pre-selection for Bragg — two women and two men.
That includes lawyer Jack Batty, who worked as a Liberal staffer and as an adviser to the Australian High Commissioner in London, former Democrats candidate, Liberal staffer and republican movement director Sandy Biar, lawyer Melissa Jones and healthcare businesswoman Cara Miller.
Both Ms Jones and Ms Miller were also candidates in last year’s Waite pre-selection.
“Naturally I’m thrilled that there are women in the race because up until the very last minute it seemed as though for Bragg there wouldn’t be any women in the pre-selection race,” Ms Potter said.
“I’ll be watching that pre-selection with a hope that they will chose a woman to represent them but what I’m hearing in the background is the hot favorite is a male candidate.”
If a man replaces Ms Chapman, it will leave the party with just two women in South Australia’s House of Assembly.
Now that she has officially out of the race for Liberal pre-selection, Ms Potter has not ruled out running in the by-election as an independent.
“I know there’s been a lot of speculation, but I genuinely wanted to represent the Liberal Party. As a result, I’ve been inundated with calls and texts and emails from Liberal Party members privately, and former Liberals who are exceptionally supportive,” she said.
“I’m focused on returning to them now and having a conversation about what does this mean, what are they thinking, what direction do they want the party to go in?”
The pre-election vote will be held on June 5.
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