ALP shifts office to avoid NSW taint - MPs

Moving ...  ALP will move its election campaign headquarters to Melbourne.
Moving ... ALP will move its election campaign headquarters to Melbourne.

LABOR will move its election campaign headquarters from Sydney to Melbourne for the federal poll next year, in an attempt, MPs say, to distance itself from the soiled political brand of the NSW party and shore up support in marginal Victorian seats.

But the move has elicited criticism from NSW MPs who argue the election will be won or lost in Sydney's west - Labor's traditional heartland - and who say the strategy is another sign the party has lost touch with its base.

''Given that an election will be won or lost in NSW, it's astounding that anyone thinks moving campaign headquarters away from the action is a smart move,'' said one Sydney MP.

Half of Labor's 10 most marginal seats are in western Sydney or on the central coast. They include Greenway in western Sydney, held by Michelle Rowland, and Lindsay, also in the west and held by the Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury.

Three of the ten 10 most marginal - Corangamite, Deakin and La Trobe - are in Victoria.

The national secretary of the ALP, George Wright, said he had been ''agnostic'' about the best location for the campaign headquarters. ''My motivation was to find the best facility to run the federal Labor Party election campaign out of,'' he said. ''The best is in Melbourne … space, location, the rent, all that sort of stuff.''

He denied the move was to do with the tainted brand of the NSW branch. ''We will have a strong presence during the campaign in Sydney. We will maintain an office in Sydney, in Sussex Street.''

This year the NSW party revealed its intention to move its headquarters from Sussex Street - with its notorious associations with back-room deals and factional number crunching - to Parramatta.

But Parramatta is ''not far enough'', according to Victorian MPs who support the Melbourne move. They say internal polling shows potential seat losses in Victoria justify a Melbourne base.

In the new year the Independent Commission Against Corruption will continue its inquiry into the allegedly corrupt awarding of mining licences to the former state Labor minister Eddie Obeid and members of his family.

The hearings have already heard shocking allegations about Mr Obeid's influence, which he allegedly built through his powerful position within Labor.

Sydney MPs had been heartened by what they saw as a recent focus on western Sydney, including a visit by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to a school to announce a teaching award, and several small funding announcements that play well to constituencies.

But news that the campaign headquarters will not be in the city, which some believe is integral to Labor's re-election prospects, has aggravated nervous MPs. ''Anyone under [a] 2 per cent [margin] can look at doing new things next year,'' one said.

Mr Wright said the electoral ''risks'' were in and around Melbourne and Sydney, and the ''opportunities'' were in Queensland where Campbell Newman's government had cut funding and services.

In the final Nielsen poll for the year, Labor was behind on a two party-preferred basis with 48 per cent of the vote and the Coalition 52 per cent.

The government will go into the new year with flagship policies such as the national disability insurance scheme and the Gonski education reforms as well as its tactic of portraying Tony Abbott as anti-women.

American-style campaigning tricks - particularly in social media - will be brought in. Malcolm McGregor, a member of the digital campaign team for the US President, Barack Obama, visited Australia recently to share techniques with Labor strategists.

MPs scotched suggestions of an election before July. They said it would be impractical because it would put the House of Representatives and Senate out of sync.

This story ALP shifts office to avoid NSW taint - MPs first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.