Councillor’s federal politics bid could pave way for city first

By David Schout

City of Melbourne Cr Roshena Campbell has begun a bid to enter Federal Parliament, in a move that could see her replaced by Town Hall’s first ever indigenous councillor. 

Cr Campbell is one of several candidates seeking Liberal Party preselection in the outer-eastern seat of Casey for the upcoming federal election. 

Should she be successful, Wiradjuri man Professor Mark McMillan would be elected to the City of Melbourne via countback. 

Professor McMillan was third on Lord Mayor Sally Capp’s ticket in last year’s election, behind Cr Campbell (second) and Town Hall’s current longest-serving councillor Kevin Louey (first).

And while Team Capp did not receive the required 30 per cent of votes to ensure his place on council, being next on the ticket would see him take the position vacated by Ms Campbell.  

Professor McMillan has worked in the area of human rights, in particular for indigenous Australians, and has held positions as Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor at RMIT University and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Melbourne.

Should Cr Campbell earn preselection, his elevation would be significant. 

In 2016, Brooke Wandin was initially elected as the City of Melbourne’s first indigenous councillor, but stood down after it was discovered she did not live at the Kensington address she had nominated when registering for election.

Professor McMillian at this stage did not wish to speak about a potential countback. 

For Cr Campbell, preselection success would see her quit as councillor less than 12 months into the role.

The seat of Casey was due to be vacated by outgoing Speaker Tony Smith, and preselection was set to take place in September (although COVID-19 restrictions could see it delayed).

Casey has been a Liberal seat for the past 37 years, the last 20 of which have been held by Mr Smith.

Should Cr Campbell’s bid for preselection be successful, the 36-year-old would then have a strong chance of securing a lower house seat in Canberra. 

However, the Coalition holds Casey by a margin of just 4.6 per cent, and it is expected to be a close contest on election day — due between now and May 2022.

Cr Campbell told CBD News she was currently “unable to comment unfortunately under the Liberal Party preselection rules”.

A former CBD local and current Fitzroy resident, Cr Campbell is a barrister with expertise in commercial law and corporate governance.

The mother of three has represented some of Australia’s largest companies as well as state and local government bodies.

She has acted in some of Victoria’s most significant litigations and a number of Royal Commissions, including for the Black Saturday bushfires.

Since being elected in November 2020, the first-time councillor has been a strong advocate for small business support during COVID-19 hardship through her role as city activation portfolio lead.

She has been an outspoken critic of plans for a medically-supervised safe-injecting room on Flinders St, describing the state government proposal as “nothing short of insanity”. 

At a May 25 council meeting she called on the City of Melbourne to reject a safe-injecting facility on the basis it would “significantly hinder” the city’s COVID-19 economic recovery.

Cr Campbell has also been critical of the council’s cycle lane rollout that was pushed forward after the onset of COVID-19 •

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