The federal election date might be eight months away and it’s officially game on between the two local political heavyweights Tony Windsor and Richard Torbay – but don’t expect too much electioneering from either candidate too soon.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s surprise announcement of a federal poll on September 14 sparked an immediate reaction from the two politicians – both of them saying eight months was a long time in politics for people.
And both men, the sitting MP and The Nationals contender to a once-blue-ribbon party seat still officially an independent in the NSW Parliament, appreciate that the electorate probably doesn’t want, nor should it be burdened with such a long campaign.
Mr Windsor, the independent member for New England, said he wouldn’t be starting campaigning now – because he had too much work to finish off before the current Parliament was dissolved.
“My focus until the election campaign proper begins will remain firmly on working with the present government to deliver outcomes for the people of the New England electorate,” he said.
He would then have about six weeks to conduct his campaign.
Mr Windsor confirmed he had been aware yesterday’s election announcement was coming; he’d had a call from the prime minister the night before.
Mr Windsor said a rough timeframe for a September or October election had always been set after the hung parliament served its three years.
It was part of his and fellow independent MP Rob Oakeshott’s, agreement with the government after the 2010 election.
Mr Windsor said he believed a full term of Parliament was needed to address the big issues, including the Clean Energy Future, Murray-Darling Basin Plan and National Broadband Network rollout.
“I trusted the prime minister to honour that – something I didn’t trust the Opposition leader to do,” he said.
In the election lead up, he said he looked forward to achieving more important reforms before proudly putting up his performance as the New England MP to the electorate.
Mr Windsor was the front- runner at the 2010 federal election, winning with 71 per cent of votes on the two candidate preferred count.
The Nationals candidate followed at 28 per cent. The Country Labor candidate secured 8.1 per cent of first preference votes.
Now new odds published by national gambling provider Sportsbet show Mr Torbay as the frontrunner at the upcoming election.
Mr Torbay is the favourite to win at $1.30 while Mr Windsor follows at $3.25.
The Labor candidate trails at $26.
A Sportsbet spokesman said yesterday’s announcement hadn’t changed the odds, which havd, in the past, been pretty telling when it came to election results.
“Punters think there will be a change of government and that’s reflected in the odds,” he said.
Mr Torbay said it was an interesting take on betting and he wasn’t aware that market existed.
He too had won the 2011 state election with a large majority of votes at 69.4 per cent.
The Nationals candidate trailed at 30.6 per cent.
But September 14 presents a looming cut-off point to resign from his state seat and end his independent career.
His last day as the Northern Tablelands MP will more than likely be around the same time as the issuing of the writs, a formal written order for election, on August 12.
He said his campaign would be based on issues that affected the electorate, as outlined in his recent survey’s results and in the Coalition’s election policy document released at the weekend.
Economic development, boosting productivity, improving health services, infrastructure investment and the agriculture and mining debate will top his list.
“Paying off debt, boosting productivity, reforming infrastructure delivery and building prosperity in regional Australia are front and centre of the policies,” Mr Torbay said.
Establishing a Rural Health Minister will also be high on his campaign’s agenda.
Mr Torbay said he was looking forward to debating the issues, rather than engaging in personal attacks.
“The people I meet and those who have responded to my recent survey are all calling for that – a debate on policies and issues and an end to negative personal politics,” he said.
He had welcomed the prime minister’s announcement, saying it was a game changer to focus on policies.
But he said he could imagine, after eight months, people would be pretty sick of it all.
The election announcement eight months prior to polling will be the longest slog to the polls since 1910.