Gillard could face battle to have Peris pre-selected
PRIME Minister Julia Gillard has used a "captain's pick" as she attempts to make Olympic gold medallist Nova Peris Labor's number one Senate candidate in the Northern Territory.
If elected later this year Ms Peris, who is yet to even join the ALP, would become the party's first Aboriginal federal MP and the first Aboriginal woman from any party to take a seat in the Australian Parliament.
But Ms Gillard, who said had been "very troubled" by the absence of an Aboriginal Labor MP in Canberra, could face a battle to get Ms Peris pre-selected.
The Prime Minister said she had asked the ALP's national executive to work with her to get Ms Peris pre-selected as the party's number one candidate in the Northern Territory.
Trish Crossin, whose 15-year parliamentary career will come to an end if Ms Gillard gets her way, released a statement criticising the move.
Senator Crossin said she was not consulted and was "told" of the decision by Ms Gillard on Monday night.
"This action has been taken without consultation or negotiation with the NT branch of the ALP or my input as the long-serving federal Labor Senator for the Northern Territory," Senator Crossin said.
"It has been my long held belief that preselection should always be a matter for NT Labor branch members to decide.
"NT ALP branch members determine who will represent them in the NT and federal parliaments and it is those members of the party whose opinions and trust must be respected in terms of determining who can best serve the diverse interests of the NT electorate."
Ms Gillard paid tribute to Senator Crossin, who she said had been an advocate for social justice and indigenous issues.
She refused to reveal how Senator Crossin reacted to the news.
Asked to defend the action, Ms Gillard said simply: "I've made a decision and that's it."
Ms Gillard said she did not intend to make a habit of intervening in party processes, but was making an exception in this instance.
"I believe Nova's selection is a matter of national significance as well as a matter of significance for the Northern Territory," Ms Gillard said.
A visibly nervous Ms Peris struggled to keep her emotions in check as she fronted the media in Canberra.
"I want to say thank you for this amazing opportunity," Ms Peris said.
"I certainly understand the significance of this opportunity and I'm very honoured and humbled. Thank you Prime Minister."
Ms Peris, 41, said she was first approached to enter politics around seven years ago but declined due to the age of her children.
She was approached again by the ALP about two months ago and after a series of discussions accepted the invitation.
The mother of three and grandmother said she was passionate about education, health and youth issues.
She faced a range of policy questions at her first press conference on Tuesday, including one about the former Howard government's Northern Territory intervention. She said the intervention was necessary but the implementation had been handled poorly.
Asked if she had ever been a member of the ALP, Ms Peris looked to the Prime Minister for guidance.
Ms Gillard confirmed her star recruit was not a member of the ALP, a situation she would ask the national executive to "resolve".
Negotiations with Ms Peris began almost two months ago.
Mr Peris admitted it was a life-changing decision, but was prepared for the challenge.
She became the first Aborigine to win an Olympic gold medal when she helped the Australian women's hockey team to success in 1996.