Conservative contest

THE Gippsland South by-election has become a contest between Coalition partners, the Nationals and Liberals following confirmation Labor won’t field a candidate.

Preferences are likely to determine whether the Nationals’ Danny O’Brien or Liberals’ Scott Rossetti will succeed Peter Ryan as Gippsland South MLA on March 14.

Mr O’Brien formally resigned his position in the upper house of state parliament on Wednesday to contest the by-election for the lower house seat. No by-election is needed to fill the vacated upper house seat, with the Nationals to select Mr O’Brien’s replacement.

Mr Rossetti has taken leave as a Wellington Shire councillor until after the by-election.

However, the Greens’ Andrea Millsom, the only other confirmed candidate, could prove the wildcard.

The Greens have indicated their campaign will focus on coal seam gas issues.

The full list of candidates will be revealed this afternoon ahead of the ballot draw, to be held in Leongatha.

Parties had to submit their candidate by noon Thursday, while the deadline for independent candidates to nominate is noon today.

The date for the by-election was announced on February 17 by Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Telmo Languiller.

With Gippsland South always being a conservative seat since it was established in 1859 and Labor having a small membership base locally, the party made a decision not to contest the by-election.

Labor and the Liberals have a history of not contesting by-elections in their opponents’ safe seats.

Labor will also be keen to avoid the by-election becoming an early referendum on the three-month-old Daniel Andrews’ government.

The by-election result is set to hinge on who traditional Labor supporters will vote for. Despite limited campaigning at last year’s election in Gippsland South, Labor received 21.9 per cent of the primary vote.

Preferences from Greens voters could also be a factor.

At the election, the Greens received 9.6 per cent of the vote. That could increase if the party strikes a chord with voters over CSG, especially among voters in the rural parts of the electorate.

Ms Millsom was the Greens’ lead candidate for the Eastern Victoria upper house region at last year’s election. She missed out on the region’s final seat to Labor’s Daniel Mulino.

How-to-vote cards must be submitted to the VEC by next Friday.

Early voting begins on Monday, with centres to be located at 348 Raymond St, Sale, and 1 Church St, Leongatha.