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Former Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May has emerged as the early front-runner to replace the Victorian Greens’ Janet Rice, after the senator announced her decision to quit politics and create a casual Senate vacancy.
Rice, 62, has been in the senate since 2013 and was due to face voters again at the next election – due to be held by May 2025 – but on Monday announced her decision to retire from parliament.
Greens senator Janet Rice will retire from the Senate in the first half of 2024.Credit: Justin McManus
Rice said she would retire in the first half of 2024, leaving the person the Greens select to fill the casual vacancy about 18 months to serve in the parliament.
Pre-selection to replace Rice is expected to be wrapped up in November this year, with between 2000 and 3000 Greens party members expected to vote on who their new senator should be.
Hodgins-May, who has stood for the Melbourne seat of Macnamara in 2016, 2019 and 2022 – coming a close second to Labor MP Josh Burns in the most recent poll – confirmed her plan to seek the Senate vacancy on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.
She thanked Rice for her service and said “whether campaigning for increased income support or an end to native forest logging, your activism has provided a unique and critical contribution to Australia’s political landscape. I also confirm my intention to nominate for the Senate preselection”.
Greens candidate Steph Hodgins-May.Credit: Wayne Taylor
Multiple sources in the Greens, who asked not to be named so they could discuss internal deliberations, said after senator Lidia Thorpe’s decision to quit and sensationally move to the crossbench, the party was determined to choose a candidate who was a safe pair of hands.
Greens City of Monash councillor Josh Fergeus, who has previously stood for the federal seat of Chisholm and a chief executive officer in the charity sector, is also expected to stand for the seat.
Apsara Sabaratnam, an academic and unionist who has previously stood as the Greens’ candidate for Lord Mayor of Melbourne and Sarah Jefford, a lawyer who has stood for the federal seat of Wills, are also contenders to stand for the seat according to Greens party sources.
Rice listed the legalisation of same-sex marriage and the end to native forest logging in Victoria among the “huge wins” achieved while she had been in parliament.
“I entered the Senate with a mandate to represent Victorians who want to see urgent action on the climate crisis, and who want to see politics work for people, not billionaires and big corporations. Those fights are far from over,” she said.
“Until my very last moment in the Senate, I will keep fighting in parliament for my constituents, for our climate and environment, real action for renters, a human rights-based approach to aged care, and building a strong social safety net for everyone who needs it. No one in our rich country should live in poverty or struggle to keep a roof over their head.”
Hodgins-May declined to comment further when contacted by this masthead, citing party rules about pre-selection contests.
Victoria is one of the Greens’ strongholds with the party having continuously held at least one Senate seat in the state since the 2010 election.
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