The focus will be on policy

It will be the longest election campaign Australians have ever had to endure, but the announcement yesterday by the prime minister that the federal poll will be held on September 14 provides some positives.

It ends the mindless and relentless speculation about the election date which unsettles financial markets and the business sector. The early announcement provides stability and will place the focus on policy.

It will, however, be a punishing campaign.

The hung parliament, despite constant speculation it would not last, will serve out its three-year term largely unscathed. Regardless of political points of view it has shown the strength of our democracy and the parliamentary process. The parliament has dealt with some sizeable issues and pushed through a significant number of bills.

With a limited number of sitting weeks to go before the election writs are issued on August 12, the remaining life of this parliamentary term will be an interesting period.

The government wants to push ahead with its Gonski education plan. The prime minister, a former education minister, wants the funding formula which will add $5 billion to the education budget to be her government’s legacy.

The Coalition will want to build on its already commanding lead in the polls, but nothing should be taken for granted in politics.

With polling day almost eight months away there is plenty of time for upsets, controversy and changing circumstances.

Locally, the battle between Tony Windsor and Richard Torbay will be intriguing.

Mr Torbay starts favourite, according to the bookmakers, but Mr Windsor is a political phenomenon and can not be discounted.

He can be criticised by conservative voters for supporting a Labor government, but he can’t be criticised for not delivering for his electorate.

Even Richard Torbay would not claim Tony Windsor has been a failure.

This election delivers a real irony. In the past voters have complained about the New England electorate not receiving its fair share and for being taken for granted by the party which has held the seat for most of its history. That said, voters returned the sitting Nationals MP time and time again until Mr Windsor entered the federal fray.

This time, the electorate might choose to discard the politician who has delivered for his electorate, but failed to support the conservative side of politics.

New England can’t have its cake and eat it too.


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