19 April 2023

Andrew Constance in Liberal showdown for Jim Molan's Senate seat

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Andrew Constance on Malua Bay Beach

Andrew Constance is likely to be among the final three candidates for Jim Molan’s Senate seat. Photo: Kim Treasure.

Former NSW member for Bega Andrew Constance is almost certain to be one of three final candidates for Liberal senator Jim Molan’s federal seat when preselection goes ahead in late May.

Senator Molan died in January after a battle with cancer and the replacement process was delayed by the NSW state election. Section 15 of the Australian constitution states that when a casual vacancy (because of the resignation or death of a sitting senator) occurs, their replacement is chosen by the parliament of the state which that senator represented.

The decision is likely to be factionally based: Senator Molan was part of the centre right, along with former prime minister Scott Morrison and former frontbencher Julian Leeser (who stood down in order to support the Voice to Parliament Yes campaign).

Mr Constance, also notionally on the right, was nevertheless an outspoken critic of the prime minister during the Black Summer bushfires and stood aside to contest the federal seat of Gilmore after being considered a possibility for NSW party leadership.

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However, he lost Gilmore to Labor’s Fiona Phillips and has since been biding his time, listing his employment status on LinkedIn as “self-employed analyst”.

He will face NSW Liberal Party president Maria Kovacic, who is the preferred candidate for the moderate faction, and businesswoman Gisela Kapterian, currently a senior director for Salesforce and a former federal ministerial senior staffer.

Ms Kovacic ran for the seat of Parramatta in the 2022 federal election but was unsuccessful. She benefits from a reportedly strong desire from moderates to see a woman in the role and is also a favourite because of her strong roots in western Sydney, an area that fell hard to Labor in the March state election.

Mr Constance has a strong profile nationally following his outspoken criticism of the Morrison government. He’s described fighting to save his own house at Malua Bay as a “life-changing experience” and was frank about battling mental health issues, along with many of his constituents, in the fires’ aftermath.

He will draw support from the right and soft right sections of the NSW party and is likely to also benefit from Ms Kovacic’s baggage as state president.

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It’s also likely Mr Constance will position himself as a regional candidate, following in senator Molan’s footsteps. The need to cement strong connections in regional NSW has been bolstered by dismal results for the Liberals in the state election, where a number of regional seats in southeastern NSW swung strongly to Labor, including Monaro and South Coast. Mr Constance’s former seat of Bega continues to be held comfortably for Labor by Dr Michael Holland.

It’s believed that right-wing former NSW Upper House president Matthew Mason-Cox may nominate and former MP Fiona Scott is also a possible contender.

Preselection for the Senate seat will take place on 27 or 28 May after nominations opened this week.

Region has contacted Mr Constance for comment, but understands that under Liberal Party rules, candidates are not allowed to speak publicly.

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Philip Creagh3:16 pm 01 May 23

Hmm – the comments below are somewhat biassed??
Constance won two elections for Bega with >50% first preference. He won the 2019 election for Bega with 49% primary vote (57% two party preferred).

At the 2022 Federal election he had a 13% swing to Liberal away from Phillips. After preferences he lost by 0.4%. This was the biggest swing against Labor by a Liberal in any electorate.

Over nearly 20 years Contsnace defended the Timber industry, Fishing Industry and helped put in place funding and delivery of The Bega Hospital, Moruya Hospital ,replacement bridges at Batemans Bay and Nelligen as well as starting the Moruya bypass.

What have Phiilips or McBain done?

I think Warren Mundine would be a better pick.

cannedbeeria8:41 pm 27 Apr 23

Oh where oh where is the thumbs up button when you need it?? (To all 3 comments)

Paul Sullivan2:30 pm 20 Apr 23

Why are my comments about Mr Constance refused. Is this a Constance protection zone?
The man did not even congratulate Fiona Phillips on her win or attend the Declaration of The Poll.
Noted in the Related Highlights Coverage below, it is all Constance this and Constance that, not even a mention of Ms Phillips by name, except a negative comment about brakes on her victory celebration.

Paul Sullivan2:14 pm 20 Apr 23

Oh please, hasn’t Andrew got the message, the people of South East NSW are over this serial loser, the worst Transport Minister and person who thinks he is entitled to a Seat in Parliament, any Seat will do.

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