McNeven is hot favourite

FRASER Coast deputy mayor Belinda McNeven is the hot – but still unofficial – favourite to win preselection for the marginal federal seat of Hinkler.

Australian Labor Party state secretary Anthony Chisholm yesterday confirmed the party would be calling for nominations “within the next few days”.

But he would not say whether Ms McNeven had indicated she would be nominating to win party support to take on sitting Nationals MP Paul Neville, who has held the Hinkler seat since 1993.

Hervey Bay became a part of the Hinkler electorate as part of a 2006 redistribution.

Ms McNeven did not answer the Chronicle’s call yesterday.

When asked on a previous occasion if she would be running for preselection she said it was one of her options.

“The ALP expects to open nominations very shortly and we’re confident we will get a strong grass-roots candidate to take the fight up to Paul Neville,” Mr Chisholm said.

Meanwhile business people around the region have reported to the Chronicle that Ms McNeven has approached them on the subject of helping to fund her “campaign”.

Fraser Coast Mayor Mick Kruger, however, has recently said he “loves” his job and if he keeps loving it, he says, he may well put his hat in the ring for the next local government election.

It is unlikely therefore that Ms McNeven is seeking to fund a mayoral campaign this far out from the local government election.

If Ms McNeven does go for preselection she does not need to resign from her councillor role – she just needs to take leave.

Hinkler is now held on a narrow margin – 1.5 per cent – in the wake of last year’s Australian Electoral Commission redistribution.

The redistribution, gazetted in December, has carved off some areas from Hinkler – the former Biggenden and Woocoo shires and a chunk of country between Maryborough and Hervey Bay.

Biggenden has gone into the seat of Flynn and Woocoo and a slice north of Maryborough are now in Wide Bay.

Hinkler now includes Hervey Bay, Torbanlea, Howard, Childers and Bundaberg.

Ms McNeven, a former teacher, was at one stage engaged to Hervey Bay MP and Climate Change Minister Andrew McNamara, who lost his seat to Ted Sorensen in the last election.

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