South-west candidates, voters in for a long haul

SOUTH-WEST residents can expect a long eight months of visiting politicians and policy promises as campaigning intensifies towards the September 14 polling date announced yesterday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Corangamite’s Labor member Darren Cheeseman, who holds one of the nation’s most marginal seats, and Liberal member for Wannon Dan Tehan, in his traditionally safe conservative seat, welcomed the announcement.

“It’s going to be a marathon campaign,” Mr Cheeseman told The Standard. 

“It’s the most marginal seat in the country and we will have to work very hard to keep the seat.” 

The MP has held Corangamite since 2007 and said he would campaign on health funding, the national disability insurance scheme and bolstering the fledgling manufacturing sector. 

Liberal candidate and former journalist Sarah Henderson will once again challenge Mr Cheeseman after losing in 2010 by only a few hundred preferential votes. 

Victorian Greens party manager Martin Shields said no candidate had yet been nominated for Corangamite. 

Associate Professor of politics at Monash University, Paul Strangio, said there were still months to decide which way the electorate would swing. 

“Corangamite is definitely on a knife edge, but Victoria is generally one of the places where the government is doing better,” Professor Strangio said. 

“Both sides will throw a large amount of resources at the seat.”

Professor Strangio said lessons needed to be learnt from the last election, which focused heavily on marginal seats in New South Wales. 

“I think it will be hard for the major parties to calibrate their message for the rest of the country.” 

The academic also poured cold water on Katter’s Australian Party’s hopes of making a dent in Corangamite. 

“Right-of-centre parties tend to not do so well in Victoria. If they have any chance of representation it would be in the senate,” he said. 

Mr Tehan is keen to fight for his list of priorities to be endorsed by the party’s federal leadership.

He listed support for the dairy industry, health funding — including support for Warrnambool’s proposed cancer centre — a green army environmental program, better road funding and reduction of telecommunication black spots among his priorities.

Mr Tehan, the son of former state MP Marie Tehan, won Wannon in 2010 with a 7.2 per cent margin, which was reduced to 5.5 per cent in a subsequent boundary redistribution which added Maryborough.

Former independent candidate James Purcell of Port Fairy did not rule out another election tilt after losing his bids at the 2010 federal and state elections.

“I’ll decide quite quickly, within a month,” he said.

“I don’t think Wannon gets the benefits of more marginal seats. Ideally it should become marginal.”

The Nationals won’t field a candidate in Wannon but haven’t ruled out the marginal Corangamite seat.

The ALP and Greens will be seeking candidates.

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