Shellharbour selection shuffle as Labor head office joins in

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson.
Shellharbour MP Anna Watson.
Dapto nurse John Rumble.

Dapto nurse John Rumble.

Shellharbour MP Anna Watson will likely be reinstalled as Labor's candidate at next year's state election with the decision to be made by Labor head office.

This runs counter to a national push for rank-and-file ALP branch members to have a say in candidate preselection.

On Friday, NSW Labor referred the preselection process for the seats of Lakemba, Gosford and Shellharbour to the party's national executive.

This intervention in Shellharbour will protect Ms Watson against potential challenger, Dapto nurse John Rumble.

Mr Rumble told the Mercury he had been planning to nominate for preselection in a rank-and-file ballot as he had been encouraged to do so by branch members after winning the seat's primary preselection count in 2010.

He said he was now "keeping his options open" and called on Ms Watson to reject the national ballot process and allow local Labor members to decide their candidate.

Ms Watson was not able to be contacted, but her advisor Gino Mandarino issued a written statement on her behalf.

"I will put my case for re-endorsement as the Labor candidate for Shellharbour in the national executive ballot process," Ms Watson said. "As this preselection process is a matter for the Labor Party, I will not be making any further public comment until the ballot is determined."

Ms Watson's likely Liberal opponent, accountant Mark Jones, was critical on Friday.

"How can you ask the people of Shellharbour to support [Ms Watson] when your own local party members don't?" he wrote on Twitter.

But Mr Mandarino brushed off the criticism, referring to a statement from Opposition Leader John Robertson.

Mr Robertson's statement, taken from a letter to the ALP party secretary, read: "I need to ensure, as the leader of the NSW Labor Party, I have the best team of candidates contesting the next election and taking the fight to the Liberals' radical agenda."

Elsewhere in the Illawarra, Keira MP Ryan Park was re-endorsed by branch members, while the Kiama and Heathcote candidates - Glenn Kolomeitz and Maryanne Stuart - have been in place for some months.

Preselection for the seat of Wollongong is yet to be called and sitting MP Noreen Hay has yet to confirm she will contest.

Speaking to the Mercury yesterday, Ms Hay would only say she was "a staunch supporter of rank-and-file preselection".

University of Wollongong staffer Paul Scully told Labor members last year he intended to run for preselection against Ms Hay.