Councillor handpicked by Liberals to contest crucial federal by-election

Councillor handpicked by Liberals to contest crucial federal by-election
David Schout

A Melbourne councillor will contest a by-election for the eastern suburbs seat of Aston on April 1, in a move that could see her replaced by Town Hall’s first-ever Indigenous councillor.

Senior Liberal Party figures have selected City of Melbourne councillor Roshena Campbell as their candidate for a crucial federal by-election in the marginal seat of Aston in Melbourne’s east.

The outspoken councillor, who has been a vocal critic of the council’s support of protected bike lanes and a medically supervised injecting room, will vacate her position should she win the marginal Liberal seat on April 1.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton voted for Cr Campbell in a secret ballot of top Liberal officials on February 21, and the next day the pair fronted a press conference together in the seat of Aston, which largely encompasses the City of Knox in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.

An inner-north resident, she was criticised by some for not boasting any real connection with the local community, but Cr Campbell confirmed she would move to the area if successful.

She did not respond to a request for comment by Southbank News.

Aston has been in Liberal Party hands for more than 30 years, and the April 1 by-election is seen as crucial for the opposition after defeat at last year’s federal election.

Mr Dutton has visited the electorate at least three times since the by-election was called, underlining the importance of the upcoming vote.

Early speculation suggested former treasurer Josh Frydenberg might run for the seat as a path to re-enter federal politics after losing his seat of Kooyong to independent Dr Monique Ryan at last year’s election.


Should Cr Campbell be successful, under local election rules Wiradjuri man Professor Mark McMillan would be elected via countback. 


Professor McMillan was third on Lord Mayor Sally Capp’s ticket in the 2020 election, behind Cr Campbell (second) and Town Hall’s current longest-serving councillor Kevin Louey.

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

It is not the first occasion Cr Campbell has made a bid for higher office since being elected as a City of Melbourne councillor in November 2020. Less than 12 months into the role she put herself forward for preselection in the seat of Casey but finished third in a hotly contested count.

Following the result, in November 2021, the first-term councillor said she had “no plans at the moment” to nominate for further pre-selections at either state or federal level but did not rule out the prospect. 

Cr Campbell is a barrister with expertise in commercial law and corporate governance, and 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.

She is also married to the Herald Sun’s national weekend political editor, James Campbell.

Since being elected to Town Hall, Cr Campbell has been a strong advocate for small business support during COVID-19 hardship.

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

More notably, she has been a consistent detractor of the council’s expanded rollout of protected cycling lanes throughout the municipality, and what she terms as an “anti-car” agenda.

The continued criticism saw her pushed out of a role as deputy chair of the transport portfolio in August last year.

“It has been put to me that it would be difficult for me to continue as the deputy of the transport portfolio given my significant concerns about the bike lane rollout,” she said at the time.

“I’ve made those views clear in this chamber, in particular my opposition to the anti-car measures in council’s transport policy, and our failure to fix issues with existing bike lanes.” •

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