LIBERAL MLC Scot MacDonald will leave state politics at the March 2019 election after losing a preselection ballot to fellow MLC Catherine Cusack on Saturday.
The preselection ballot was held at noon at the Tamworth Ex-Services Club and Ms Cusack won the contest by 23 votes to 18.
Mr MacDonald had two stints as Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter during his time in office, which began at the 2011 O’Farrell landslide over Labor.
He held the job from April 2015 to January 2017, losing it to Ms Cusack when Gladys Berejiklian became premier. But he won it back soon after in April last year when Ms Cusack was forced to resign after sending Ms Berejiklian a furious late-night email criticising the new ministerial line up as based on factions rather than merit.
Ms Cusack kept a low profile after that but she won another parliamentary secretary’s position earlier this year and word soon emerged of her desire to challenge Mr MacDonald for his position on the upper house election ticket.
Mr MacDonald said he had spoken with the premier after Saturday’s ballot, and she had asked him to remain as parliamentary secretary for the rest of the parliamentary term.
“I’ve had eight years and it’s been an honour and a privilege,” Mr MacDonald said.
“I’ve absolutely learned so much, and I will say that being part of the Revitalising Newcastle project has been brilliant. I think it’s been one of the highlights of my life, and not just my political life. When you look at what the city was like a few years ago compared to what is coming together now, it’s just going to be so good for future generations.”
Mr MacDonald, who lives in the New England town of Guyra with his wife, Aileen, said he was unsure of what he would do after parliament.
The couple had run a primary produce business in Guyra but they sold it before Mr MacDonald entered parliament in March 2011.
“Quite frankly, I had very little to do with the Hunter before politics and I have to say I have fallen in love with it a bit,” Mr MacDonald said.
He said he had learned a lot about various industries in the region during his time in Macquarie Street and was “not at all against looking in the Hunter for a future somewhere” in the private sector.
Upper House members do not represent electorates but Liberal Party candidates win their positions on the election ballot according to an internal party structure that has some candidates representing regions of the state, while others hold statewide or “at large” positions.
With the 2011 election a Coalition high water mark, and the government not expecting to win as many upper house seats next year, there has been substantial jockeying for winnable positions on the ticket.
When the Newcastle Herald reported on the preselection tussle earlier this year, neither parliamentarian wanted to comment on the record.
After Saturday’s ballot, Ms Cusack, who entered parliament in 2003, said she was originally representing the party’s Country North province.
Ms Cusack said she was asked to stand aside for Mr MacDonald in 2011 “due to a factional deal that saw him uncontested for election”.
“I have always said I would re-contest Country North province and would not nominate for an at-large position,” Ms Cusack said.
“This selection was not subject to factional deals.”
Mr MacDonald agreed he could have tried to win another provincial position representing the Central Coast but he said he decided against this.
“That’s it, I’m now a feather duster,” Mr MacDonald said.