Labor hamstrung in hunt for Nova’s Senate replacement

The hunt is on for Nova Peris’s Northern Territory replacement, but Labor’s affirmative action policy will cause headaches for strategists hoping to quickly fill the Senate vacancy in the middle of an election.

In a shock move that has both delighted and angered various political and Indigenous leaders, Nova Peris’ decision to leave the Senate after just one term means that several obvious male replacements will more than likely be ruled out.

NIT columnist, Essendon legend and popular Tiwi Islander Dean Rioli was believed to have been encouraged to stand but was told by Labor insiders that the party’s affirmative action policy would rule out any male taking the position.

In his latest NIT column celebrating the Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round, Rioli said that Ms Peris would make a wonderful addition to the AFL, where she is rumoured to be about to take up the body’s most senior Indigenous job.

“The AFL’s most senior Indigenous position, vacated by Jason Misfud, may well be taken up by Nova Peris, if the rumours are right. Nova is a great advocate for Indigenous advancement and it would be a huge asset to have such a high-profile Indigenous woman in this position,” he writes in the latest edition of

AFL boss Gillon McLachlan last night refused to say whether Ms Peris had the job, believed to be paying around $250,000 a year, except to say that they were looking a numerous candidates.

But one senior Indigenous leader, who did not want to be named, said the surprise decision was “a bad look” for Indigenous people and “poor leadership” on behalf of the former high-profile Olympian.

The woman who was rolled in 2013 to make way for her, Trish Crossin, told The Australian that the fallout from decision was hardly unexpected and “this is what happens when you override a democracy”.

The newspaper reported that the Labor’s senior executive was “dumbfounded” that Ms Peris had decided to leave Parliament considering the “blood spilled” to get her there.

Often wrongly credited with being the first Indigenous woman elected to Parliament – Western Australia’s Carol Martin has that honour – Peris made headlines when she famously became Julia Gillard’s “Captain’s Pick”.

While her Senate career has been unremarkable in the short time she has been in the position, she was a strong supporter in the fight to keep remote communities alive following threats of closure.

Insiders say that she and leader Bill Shorten had little in common, yet the Labor leader has praised her as a “great Indigenous Australian”.

In a statement, Ms Peris said: “After careful deliberation with my family, I have chosen not to re-contest my Senate seat in the upcoming federal election.

“It is my intention that I will serve out my term and fully support and endorse my replacement for the number one position on the Labor Senate ticket, whoever that might be.”

Tony Barrass







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