Ex-Lib set to ditch independent bid

EXCLUSIVE | Ex-Liberal staffer Chelsey Potter is expected to shelve her proposed bid to run as an independent in the safe Liberal seat of Bragg, leaving former colleague Jack Batty a clearer run at retaining the crucial stronghold.

Jun 07, 2022, updated Jun 07, 2022
Chelsey Potter's Bragg bid appears over. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Chelsey Potter's Bragg bid appears over. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

The prospect of Bragg falling to a Liberal-aligned independent had party strategists spooked, particularly after Bragg members preselected a man to replace outgoing veteran Vickie Chapman, despite calls from senior powerbrokers – including leader David Speirs – for a woman to be chosen.

Chapman’s departure, and Batty’s preselection, leaves the party with only two women MPs in the lower house, frontbenchers Penny Pratt and Ashton Hurn – both elected in March to regional seats.

Potter – who quit the party after a 2019 claim of workplace sexual assault, which was denied by her alleged assailant – was “strongly considering” running as an independent in Bragg, after the party refused to allow her to nominate for preselection.

Potter’s consultancy Suffragette Group’s recent involvement in independent campaigns against Liberal MPs was cited as the key reason behind the party’s decision to ban her bid, with Speirs himself confirming he was “comfortable” with the decision.

But it’s understood senior Liberals – including Speirs – have spoken to Potter in the past 24 hours, and are hopeful that they have persuaded her not to run.

Sources say the situation is “a moving feast”, but it’s likely the Liberal leadership has undertaken to address Potter’s public concerns about the party’s representation of women.

Speirs yesterday announced a taskforce – comprised of senior Liberal women, including Upper House leader Nicola Centofanti – would be established to consider changes to facilitate pathways for women into parliament, with Potter likely to be offered a seat at the table as part of any peace deal.

While not addressing Potter’s decision directly, Speirs told InDaily today: “I don’t want the Liberal Party to go to war with Chelsey Potter – in fact I want to work with her.”

“Chelsey represents a significant segment of our community and she’s clearly got something to contribute to public life in our state,” he said.

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“If there’s a way in which she can support, advise and drive the Liberal Party to increase its female representation, and do so in a genuine way, this is something I want to work with her on.”

His comments suggest Potter will be welcomed back into the Liberal fold – if she opts not to contest Bragg.

Potter, who has been previously married to current Liberal deputy leader John Gardner, declined to comment this morning.

But her likely decision will all-but ensure the Liberal Party retains the seat, despite a 16.8 per cent pre-election margin being whittled down to just 8.2 at the March poll.

With the Greens last week endorsing local environmental campaigner Jim Bastiras for the poll, Labor looks likely to tomorrow endorse lawyer Alice Rolls, who has nominated to run for preselection against former candidate Rick Sarre.

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