Prime Minister John Howard is staring at a grass-roots grab for moderate liberal votes in his Sydney seat of Bennelong following the revelation that Coalition Against Bulk Unsolicited Bulk E-mail (Caube) founder Troy Rollo will stand against him as an independent in the next federal election.
Having walked away from the chairmanship of Caube for a career in politics, Rollo said he was standing as an independent candidate with traditional Liberal economic values who was opposed to Australia's participation in the military intervention in Iraq.
"I'm coming in as someone who has liberal values. My view is fiscally conservative but socially progressive. What the Prime Minister has done [in Iraq] is not consistent with what I believe people in this electorate stand for," Rollo said, adding that are "are a lot of Liberal voters who are willing to get rid of John Howard".
Rollo said his stand in Bennelong comes with the strategic backing of disgruntled former Federal Liberal Party president and once key Howard backer John Valder - who has been instrumental in leading a campaign to unseat key Liberal members over Australia's participation in Iraq and refugee issues.
Valder confirmed this and told Computerworld that he interpreted Rollo as a fellow "disenchanted Liberal" describing him as "an impressive candidate" whom he was more than happy to support - and wished "every success".
"If Mr Howard's opponents [in Bennelong] play their cards right they could unseat him – which would be an extraordinary thing if the government won the election. His seat is not impenetrable. It would certainly resolve the issue [of when Howard would retire]," Valder said.
Rollo said that so far he was undecided as to the most effective way to distribute preferences as the final list of candidates running had not been wrapped up – but confirmed early discussions with other candidates.
Prime Minister Howard's office declined to comment on Rollo's candidacy, nor Valder's support for it, other than saying Rollo was a free citizen and as such welcome to stand for election.
The newest candidate for Bennelong is 35 years old, married with children and a resident of Epping (in Sydney's northern suburbs).