Emma Kealy wins Nationals pre-selection

THE National Party has pre-selected Emma Kealy as its candidate to stand for the seat of Lowan.

More than 100 Nationals members voted in an exhaustive pre-selection ballot on Saturday. The ballot lasted two rounds.

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Ms Kealy won pre-selection from a field of five candidates, including Horsham Mayor David Grimble, football administrator Bruce Petering, seasonal wool classer and tipper driver Russell McKenzie and businesswoman Andrea Cross.

Ms Kealy is almost assured of becoming the next Member for Lowan after the Liberal Party opted not to field a candidate.

Labor candidate Bob Scates needs a 22 per cent swing to win the seat.

Following the vote, federal and state parliamentarians anointed Ms Kealy as a future health minister.

Despite Lowan being one of the safest conservative seats in Victoria, Ms Kealy said she would fight to ensure the electorate was not forgotten.

"This is my home area," she said.

"I'm sixth generation from Edenhope and I'm currently chief executive of Edenhope Hospital so I'm very well equipped with putting forward my views for the region, being an advocate and really making sure that we get our fair piece of the pie."

Ms Kealy said candidate forums in Warracknabeal, Horsham, Hamilton, Edenhope and Jeparit allowed her to engage with the views of National Party members.

"I have a strong vision for the future about making sure that we harness all the opportunities in the electorate and that we really focus on what I believe are the three things we need from government - infrastructure, investment and innovation," she said.

"That's what I'll be really targeting over this whole election campaign."

She said transport and communications were her policy priorities.

"We need to look at road and rail networks so we can ensure, particularly with rail freight, that we can get freight off the roads and get it on to our rail network," she said.

"We need to look at improving our tracks and increase our rolling stock numbers so that we're able to get a greater scale of efficiency and therefore decrease costs for freight for our local producers and businesses."

Member for Mallee Andrew Broad said Ms Kealy would bring a different dimension to the Nationals' party room.

"You've got a potential health minister in Emma Kealy and one of the great health issues is regional disadvantage," he said.

"Having someone who understands how hospital funding works will be gold for this part of Australia."

Outgoing Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said he thought Ms Kealy had the talent to become a minister.

"I'm very confident in the candidate," he said. 

"What I'm pleased about is that Emma's got good skills, she's a very committed person."

"It's a lot of area to cover, she's going to have to wear out her shoes and wear out a bit of rubber getting around the electorate and she's already shown she can do that."

Ms Kealy, 36, will be the youngest parliamentary member of the National Party if she is successful at November's state election.

Mr Petering said he would support Ms Kealy's candidacy.

"Of course I'm disappointed, but there's no disgrace to come close to Emma, she's a sensational candidate and she'll do a sensational job," he said.

--THE WIMMERA MAIL TIMES

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