The New South Wales Labor party has announced its first candidate ahead of the 2023 election to take on the embattled high-profile Kiama MP Gareth Ward.
- Labor has announced former journalist Katelin McInerney will challenge Gareth Ward for the seat of Kiama at the 2023 election.
- The lifelong Kiama resident said she wanted a better future for her two-year-old son William.
- The announcement comes as the party grapples with the expulsion of two local party stalwarts and the resignation of local branch members.
Former journalist, unionist and life-long Kiama resident Katelin McInerney is hoping to unseat Mr Ward, who was suspended from parliament after he was accused of historic indecent and sexual assault offences.
The former government minister, who denies the charges has refused to resign in the wake of his suspension and recently defended his right to stay on as MP.
His matter returns to court later this month.
On Saturday, Ms McInerney said she would not ignore Mr Ward’s absence from Macquarie Street during her eight-month campaign.
“As a resident here, I can’t ignore the fact that we do not have a voice on the floor of parliament,” she said.
“We have an MP who is not allowed to take our concerns and to represent our interests in the room where it happens.
“We deserve a real voice in parliament and a local member who is able to not just be a member of parliament but a member in the parliament of NSW,” Ms McInerney said.
‘A tough seat to win’
She said she was “deeply concerned” about her two-year-old son William’s future and it was a driving influence behind her decision to stand.
“Because of that I will work tirelessly to move the needle on the things that matter most to the people that work here.
“Fixing our hospitals, fixing our schools, reducing the congestion on our roads, ensuring that development in this beautiful region is not only sustainable but that it reflects our community,” Ms McInerney said.
Labor leader Chris Minns said Mr Ward’s strong hold over the seat was the reason the party had named his candidate eight months out from the election.
“That’s recognition of the fact that it will be a tough seat to win,” he said.
“Katelin knows that, we all know that. We will fight for every vote.”
Mr Ward won the seat from Labor’s Matt Brown in 2011, who controversially resigned from his role as Police Minister after allegedly hosting a wild post-budget election party in his parliamentary office.
Members expelled, resign
Just days before Ms McInerney’s selection was announced, the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party announced it had expelled Mr Brown from the party.
A spokesperson said he was due to his decision to run against an endorsed party candidate at the Kiama local government elections in December.
Mr Brown declined to comment.
His expulsion came a fortnight after party stalwart, former Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba had her 35-year membership revoked, on the same grounds.
In the days prior to her expulsion, she was accused of reversing over the foot of a rival candidate, and stepson of sitting Shellharbour MP Anna Watson.
Several local branch members who supported Ms Saliba’s tilt at the recent fresh election in Shellharbour Ward A, have since resigned from the party concerned over her treatment.
sticking to the rules
Mr Minns has played down the exits and infighting plaguing the local branches and said it was not akin to the “scandals” impacting the Perrottet government.
“We’ve got long established principles in relation to the suspension and disciplinary matters in relation to people who run against endorsed candidates.
“It’s been that way inside the Labor party for 130 years. Nothing has changed about our internal rules of management of candidate selection.”
Voters in NSW will go to the polls on March 25, 2023.