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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Josh Frydenberg is mulling over whether to try to make a lunge for his old Melbourne seat of Kooyong, now that new circumstances have suddenly raised his political heart rate.

Friday’s draft redistribution of Victorian federal electoral boundaries have opened a possible path. But he’d have to smash through formidable barriers to walk down it.

Frydenberg, despite a high-paying, high-prestige position in the banking sector, still yearns for politics and supporters want him to be the candidate. Recently he has been in the public eye with a powerful documentary about antiseminitism in Australia.

To have Frydenberg in the parliament after the next election would be an asset for the Liberals. Assuming they lose, he would be the stand-out candidate for next leader.

But to have him try to wrest preselection for Kooyong now would bring the party all sorts of pre-election trouble.

The central problem is the Liberals have selected a well-qualified young woman, Amelia Hamer – a grand niece of former Victorian premier Dick Hamer – to run for the seat.

For Frydenberg and the Liberals to argue he should replace Hamer would invite the criticism that the party was not just failing to promote women as candidates, but actively trashing a woman it had chosen.

Hamer sent a careful but pointed message when at the weekend she posted a picture of herself with a local elite athlete, accompanied by the line, “Here in Kooyong the community loves to support strong women”.

On the other hand, former Liberal federal minister Karen Andrews has weighed in to strongly back Frydenberg, telling The Age that he “is someone we need to bring back into the Liberal Party and into federal politics.”

“I think that this is an opportunity to bring Josh Frydenberg back, but I also think it’s an opportunity for the party to look at who is going to be [in] the best possible position to not only win the seat, but then to go on and take a strong leadership role in the party.”

If Frydenberg did become the candidate for Kooyong, that would produce some unwelcome leadership speculation for Dutton; it would relate to after the election but get a big run in the media before it.

Frydenberg’s supporters argue he’d have the best chance to retaking Kooyong. But overturning Hamer, or forcing her to stand aside, would also give ammunition to teal incumbent Monique Ryan to mount the gender case, a strong point for the teals.

The draft boundaries have abolished Higgins, won by Labor in 2022 but previously a Liberal seat, and pushed substantial parts of it into both Kooyong and Chisholm, also won by Labor last time. The abolition of Higgins not only leaves its member,  Michelle Ananda-Rajah, without a perch but also the Liberal candidate, Katie Allen, who was the previous member.

The draft redistribution has taken some 35,000 Higgins voters into Chisholm and some 30,000 into Kooyong.

The changes have improved the chances of the Liberals regaining Chisholm. But the situation is more complicated in Kooyong and no one quite knows where it stands. Some Liberals argue the draft new boundaries improve it for them, but others believe there is zero evidence it is more winnable. ABC election analyst Antony Green does not believe the Liberal position has been substantially improved there. It is not possible to estimate at this stage how the voters new to the seat would affect Ryan’s support.

The final boundaries are not expected until October, and the AEC will receive submissions from those unhappy with the draft. But it is considered unlikely to make major changes.

Whether the Liberals reopen nominations for Kooyong and Chisholm is up to the party’s state administrative committee.

In Kooyong a major factor would be if Frydenberg put up his hand. If he doesn’t, there would be little reason to reopen.

While large parts of Higgins are destined for both Kooyong and Chisholm, obviously Allen’s best chance of staying a candidate will be to look to Chisholm. The Liberals already have a candidate, Theo Zographos, who was chosen in an uncontested preselection.

Allen would be a higher-profile candidate and, if she were running in Chisholm those wanting Frydenberg in Kooyong would have the argument that the gender balance would be maintained.

While logically the Victorian party should wait for the final boundaries before deciding what to do about the preselections, in practical terms it needs to act faster than that. So does Frydenberg. To let the speculation run is neither good for the Liberal Party or indeed for his own reputation.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. View from The Hill: Josh Frydenberg mulls political temptation after Kooyong gets new draft boundaries –