The former Labor Senator for the ACT, Katy Gallagher, will attempt to reclaim her Senate seat at the next Federal election, initiating a factional pre-selection battle with her replacement, Senator David Smith, who has no intentions of stepping aside.
Her decision comes after an acknowledged period of soul searching after the “humbling experience” of being turfed out of the Senate by the High Court last month for being a British citizen at the time of her election in contravention of Section 44 of the Constitution.
It also keeps open Labor pre-selection for the new central seat of Canberra, which many thought could be her way back to the Hill.
But Ms Gallagher, from the Left faction, said she preferred the Senate where she was Opposition Manager of Business and had developed a strong relationship with Senate Leader Senator Penny Wong.
She said Canberra’s interests were well represesented in the House and the Senate was where she felt she could be most useful.
“I have learned to love the Senate. Its very like the Assembly, it requires crossbench negotiations, its a very collegiate chamber, which is part of my history, and I love working with Penny Wong,” she told ABC radio.
“I was in the shadow cabinet and I could be a representative of Canberra at that table. I could be useful there. I think Canberra could benefit from having someone there with my knowledge.”
Although Ms Gallagher admitted the time since departing the Senate had been tough and she had questioned her future, Labor Leader Bill Shorten and other senior party figures had been very persuasive in wanting her back.
Ms Gallagher emailed party members this morning (Friday) advising them of her decision and seeking their support.
She was quick to point out that nobody owned a seat in Parliament and that she would need to win the support of party members, who in the ACT each had a vote in the pre-selection process.
As was Senator Smith, who had no intentions of being a seat warmer for Ms Gallagher. The Right faction member said he had received a huge amount of support from party branches but the position was for Labor Party members to decide.
“The pre-selection is important but more important is to ensure that ACT people are effectively represented in the Senate and that’s still going to be the thrust of the work that I’m involved in, but in doing that I’ll be going out to talk to Labor members round the branches as I have been in the last couple of weeks,” he told ABC radio.
Ms Gallagher said many people had been supportive and encouraged her to continue in politics, and she realised that she still had the drive to serve the community.
“There’s something in me and I want to give it another go,” she said.
Meanwhile, lobbyist and former federal and Territory government adviser Kel Watts has thrown his hat into the ring for the seat of Canberra, with current member Gae Brodtmann confirming that she will contest the new southern seat, nominally called Bean.
Mr Watt said he had been asked by many ALP members, community group leaders, business owners and working people to run.
“My supporters have asked me to run, saying I represent the best all-round life experience and determination to represent the ALP and community,” he said.
“My commitment to the people of Canberra and the local community flows through my veins. I am a seventh generation local. I live in Braddon with my wife Louise. My ancestors were farming this region before the ACT borders were even drawn.”
There has been speculation about a host of local party figures running in Canberra but none have so far confirmed their intentions.
The Australian Electoral Commission has redrawn the ACT’s electoral boundaries, adding a third seat due to the Territory’s growing population.
Canberra will become an inner city seat, where the Greens will figure strongly and hope to upset any Labor candidate.