Party hopes selection sounds death knell for Fisher's ghosts

Mal Brough arrives with his wife Sue for today's LNP Fisher preselection at Caloundra RSL.

Mal Brough arrives with his wife Sue for today’s LNP Fisher preselection at Caloundra RSL. Photo: Harrison Saragossi

Liberal National Party branch members for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher, hope today’s preselection will bring an end to the “sometimes woeful” attention that has surrounded the division in recent times.

The seat is held by stood-aside Speaker and former LNP member, Peter Slipper, who resigned from the LNP last year so he could take up the parliamentary role.

“Let’s face it, Fisher hasn’t been spoken about in the greatest of terms for a while,” a party insider said last night.

“Once this selection is over, I think we all just want to move on and concentrate on the federal election.”

Mr Slipper had held Fisher for various incarnations of the LNP since 1993 and the division is regarded as one of the safest conservative seats in the state.

Today, eight candidates will front the approximately 550 branch members eligible to vote and 25 state executive members, to vie for the chance to face Mr Slipper, if he runs, in the next election.

Mr Slipper’s former media adviser and current Sunshine Coast Daily reporter, Richard Bruinsma is among the nominees, as are Mal Brough and former LNP campaign strategist James McGrath.

Andrew Wallace, Peta Simpson, Graeme Mickelberg, Daniel Purdie and Stephen Ainscough will round out the ballot paper.

But it is Mr Brough, a former Howard minister, and election strategist James McGrath whom everyone will be watching.

Mr Brough, the former member for Longman, has been quietly working behind the party scenes since he lost his Caboolture-based seat in the 2007 federal election.

However, his efforts to secure the Fisher nomination were described as having been “stepped up” in the past two years.

“It was no secret that he wanted it,” a party insider said.

The LNP has warned all candidates not to speak to the media before preselection and branch members have been hesitant to speak to reporters on the record.

However, it was well known on the Sunshine Coast that Mr Brough had been seen as a shoo-in for the seat until his campaign was tarnished by the revelation of alleged links with Mr Ashby’s harassment case against the now independent MP.

Mr Brough has not commented publicly on whether he believed the Slipper case had damaged his chances for preselection, saying that “preselectors will speak for themselves”.

Mr McGrath, the man behind the Queensland LNP election slaughter, is seen as his biggest challenger. Mr McGrath is considered to have a very bright future within the party.

But while Mr McGrath is considered “well liked” in the branch and wider party, Mr Brough’s local voter popularity has been difficult to look past for some members.

Each of the eight candidates will have eight minutes to give a speech to the voting branch members, followed by eight minutes of questioning.

Candidates have been warned the voting process, to be held at the Caloundra RSL, may take up to six hours.

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