Nationals MP O'Brien tipped for Lowan

NATIONAL Party MP David O’Brien is likely to move from the upper to lower house as the junior Coalition partner seeks generational change, experts say.

Sports Minister Hugh Delahunty’s resignation opens up National Party pre-selection for Lowan with the current member for Western Victoria Region expected to throw his hat into the ring once nominations are sought later this month.

Swinburne University politics lecturer Brian Costar said Mr O’Brien as the new member for Lowan would be a natural fit given his upper house position is nowhere near as electorally solid.

He said the National Party would be keen to appoint a preselection candidate that already had a profile in the electorate.

“If (David) O’Brien were to nominate, I don’t think there’d be much competition because he’s already established his name in the local press, through electoral material,” Professor Costar said.

“Pre-selecting someone else, maybe a local councillor, is a possibility but that would mean having to spend plenty of cash on advertising.

“It’s not uncommon for younger upper house MPs to switch to the lower house so as to advance their careers. 

“(Planning Minister) Matthew Guy is a notable example of that.”

Mr O’Brien said he would be happy to run again as the National Party’s upper house candidate but did not rule out seeking Lowan pre-selection.

The 43-year old barrister gained Western Victoria’s fifth spot in the upper house at the 2010 state election, beating a swag of minor parties.

“I’m happy with being member for Western Victoria at this stage,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Now is really the time to reflect on the work of Hugh and whoever replaces him will have big shoes to fill.

“Hugh has been a fantastic local member and a great example of National Party representation, just like (Local Government Minister) Jeanette Powell in Shepparton.”

Mr Delahunty has held Lowan since it was re-established at the 2002 state election. The seat was held by former agriculture minister Bill McGrath from the cliffhanger 1979 election to Jeff Kennett’s 1992 victory.

Whoever is preselected by the National Party in Lowan is almost guaranteed to be the seat’s new MP, with its two-party preferred vote higher than 72 per cent, making it one of the safest conservative seats in the state.

Professor Costar said the National Party have an opportunity to revitalise their parliamentary stocks with the retirement of Mr Delahunty and Mrs Powell.

“With all the changes to electoral boundaries in the north of the state, it’s giving the National Party a push along to find new talent,” he said.

“They especially need more female MPs given most of the National Party’s top state figures — Ryan, Delahunty, Hall, Walsh — are blokes either in their very late 50s or into their 60s even.”

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