The two major parties, Labor and Liberal, were the last to register their candidates for the Central Coast election with the NSW Electoral Commission.
Registration for candidates and groups closed at 12 noon on Wednesday, August 9, and at that time, no Labor or Liberal candidates were listed by the NSW Electoral Commission on their website, in any of the five Central Coast Wards.
By the end of the day, both of the major party’s candidates had been added to the Electoral Commissions’ official website.
The Electoral Commission also announced that it had postponed the ballot paper draw for the order of groups and candidates’ names on the ballot paper from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.
Liberal Party preselection was straightforward in the Gosford East and Gosford West Wards.
Two candidates were preselected to represent the Liberal Party in the Gosford East Ward: Ms Rebecca Gale Collins and Ms Kerryanne Delaney.
The Liberal Party preselected one candidate in the Gosford West Ward, Mr Troy Marquart.
It is the policy of the Liberal Party that preselection only occurs for ballot positions considered “winnable”.
Preselected candidates then invite other party members to run with them.
At the time of going to press, the Liberal Party’s other ticket registrations were not known.
Labor was the last party to preselect its candidates in a process that was embroiled in internal controversy.
Former Gosford Councillor, Member for Robertson and NSW Member of the Legislative Council, Ms Belinda Neal, was expelled from NSW Labor on the day before she participated in the rank-and-file preselection ballot for the Gosford West and Gosford East Wards.
Ms Neal stood for preselection in the Gosford West Ward and, it is understood, that if the ballot had been counted to include her votes, she would have had a significant win.
The outcome of Labor preselection in the Wards of Gosford East and Gosford West was delayed due to Ms Neal’s decision to appeal the expulsion, and due to other internal disputes over the legitimacy of some members to participate in the preselection ballot.
It is understood that the head office of NSW Labor then conducted a count of the ballots in the Gosford East and Gosford West Wards on Monday, August 7, in the presence of scrutineers.
In Gosford West, two counts were conducted: one with Ms Neal’s votes and one without.
All ballot papers were then placed back in the ballot box, which was resealed, and party officials and members who were present for the count were “gagged”, under Court Orders taken out by NSW Labor, from revealing or discussing the results.
Throughout the Labor preselection process, which Coast Community News considered to be a matter of public interest, multiple requests were made to Labor head office to interview NSW Labor General Secretary, Ms Kaila Murhnain, but she did not return our calls.
On Wednesday, August 9, Ms Neal said the appeal of her expulsion from the party was ongoing but, since registration for candidates in the Central Coast Council election had closed, she intended to take her time with the process.
“Clearly I had the overwhelming support of local members, but this view is not respected by head office,” Ms Neal said.
It is understood that Mr Richard Mehrtens has been preselected as the Number 1 Labor candidate in the Gosford West Ward.
His running mates will be former Gosford Councillor, Ms Vicki Scott, with Mr Brad Ernst in the third spot on the Labor ticket in the Gosford West Ward.
Mr Jeff Sundstrom is understood to be Labor’s Number 1 candidate in Gosford East, and he will be running with former Gosford Councillor and Deputy Mayor, Mr Jim Macfadyen and Ms Victoria Collins.
The outcome of Labor preselection meant that it had broken its own rules in relation to affirmative action.
Official party documents issued to nominees prior to preselection stated that the party’s affirmative action policy had to apply to all number one positions in the five wards.
The principle was that 40 per cent of Labor candidates elected to the new Central Coast Council were required to be women, which translated to at least two Number 1 Labor ticket spots being taken by women.
Ms Neal’s expulsion means that only one woman, Lisa Matthews in the Budgewoi Ward, will have a Number 1 position on a Labor ticket out of the five wards.
Coast Community News has asked Ms Murhnain to clarify the party’s affirmative action policy.
Ms Vicki Scott, former Gosford Councillor and past president of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) gave her preselection preferences to Mr Mehrtens ahead of three other women in the Gosford West Ward.
Website, Aug 9
Candidates, NSW Electoral Commission
Interview, Aug 9
Belinda Neal, Labor nominee
Interview, Aug 9
Jeff Sundstrom, Labor candidate Gosford East Ward
Interview, Aug 9
Bob Mudge, NSW Liberal Party
Jackie Pearson, journalist