Labor's excess baggage

Rural and regional voters don't like being ignored...

LABOR candidates in NSW will carry more than the baggage of the federal government's record on issues such as live export and its ongoing leadership tussles into the election.

The party's brand took a big hit last week after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) made findings of corruption against former State Labor ministers Ian Macdonald and Eddie Obeid - just four days ahead of the federal election date being set.

And it could take another big hit in the coming weeks with ICAC due to deliver its Operation Acacia report - based on an investigation into Ian Macdonald's decision to award an exploration licence for a controversial training mine at Doyles Creek - some time in August and even closer to the September 7 poll.

Federal Labor MP Joel Fitzgibbon, whose seat of Hunter includes the Bylong Valley mining tenement embroiled in the ICAC investigation, argues voters will differentiate between State and federal issues.

But he admits the issue has done the Labor brand damage.

Former Labor Premier Nathan Rees has tipped the revelations at ICAC could result in a swing against Labor at a federal level of as much as three per cent although he admits it's hard to quantify.

But if his tip - and it is just a tip - is accurate, it could put serious pressure on at least two of Labor's four seats in rural NSW.

Page on the NSW North Coast and Eden-Monaro were both won with a margin of less than 5pc at the 2010 election.

Both - first won by the incumbents at the 2007 election when the Rudd government first took power - are also considered bellwether seats.

The two electorates are among four in rural NSW won with a margin of less than 6pc at the last election, the others being Gilmore on the South Coast and Paterson - both of which are held by the Liberals.

Gilmore is also one of the four rural NSW electorates where the sitting member - in this case Joanna Gash - is retiring.

Independents Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott will also exit, as will long-time Hume MP Alby Schultz.

This should lead to more interest in rural NSW seats than the scant regard paid by some of the major parties in 2010 - at least until it became clear their fortunes would be tied to two country based MPs.

Rural and regional voters don't like being ignored and will be looking to all parties to deliver more than rhetoric for the bush.

TheLand
A matter of opinionA selection of editorials from around the Fairfax Agricultural Media group covering the issues of the week.

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