History hanging on a knife edge in by-election
Preferences from a crowded field of by-election candidates hold the key to the Morrison government's chances of pulling off a historic win in the southern NSW seat of Eden-Monaro on Saturday.
A sitting government has not won a seat in a by-election for more than 100 years, but the Liberals are hoping Fiona Kotvojs can break that drought as the seat remains on a knife-edge after weeks of campaigning.
Labor and the Liberals will spend the final full day of the campaign on Friday blitzing opposite ends of the vast electorate, which became vacant when Labor MP Mike Kelly quit due to health reasons.
Labor's pick to replace Mr Kelly is former Bega Valley Shire Mayor Kristy McBain, who is hoping to capitalise on her profile along the coast, particularly in the wake of summer's horror bushfires.
Meanwhile, Ms Kotvojs's campaign focus on inland towns has concentrated on the federal government's ongoing efforts to kickstart jobs and support businesses after the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
There are 14 candidates in the race, which began with a bizarre false start in May after two high-profile contenders - NSW Liberal minister Andrew Constance and Deputy Premier John Barilaro - dropped out.
Mr Constance later conceded a text from NSW Nationals leader Mr Barilaro calling him a "c …" played a significant part in his decision not to run for Liberal preselection.
Both camps believe the knife-edge race will be decided on preferences, with the latest polling seen by The Daily Telegraph indicating the Greens and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party could deliver the seat to Labor.
Underscoring the importance of the election, both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese spent time with their candidates in the electorate on Thursday.
Residents across the electorate, which covers major south coast towns, as well as Queanbeyan and Yass, had barely started the bushfire clean-up when the COVID-19 crisis hit, devastating struggling small businesses
Ms Kotvojs has focused on the assistance provided to local businesses through JobKeeper, instant asset write-offs and tax reductions.
"I will be a champion for our more than 18,000 local small businesses, as we rebuild our economy," she said.
But Ms McBain has been pushing for JobKeeper to be expanded to shorter-term casual employees, and extended for bushfire affected areas.
"The one thing that I know from having spoken to many businesses is that they want (JobKeeper) extended until at least December to try to get them through to the next summer holidays, to see that they can keep going," she said.
Labor has also highlighted issues with the bushfire clean-up, with Ms McBain yesterday visiting a couple still in temporary accommodation.
Ms Kotvojs, who is a volunteer at her local Cobargo Rural Fire Service, had to fight to save her own home from the fires over New Year's Eve.
"I know what many people are going through. I'm committed to helping our farmers, small business and families rebuild," she said.
Mr Morrison has consistently tried to highlight the value of having a local MP who is a member of the government and has a seat at the table during policy discussion.
In his first election test since he became leader Mr Albanese has racked up about 20 appearances in the seat compared to about five by the PM.
It is widely seen as being his race to lose, but Labor sources point to Mr Kelly's personal popularity as being a hurdle to overcome.
LIBERAL CANDIDATE FIONA KOTVOJS
î JobKeeper, instant asset write-off, wage subsidies for apprentices, small business tax rates reduced by 1.5 per cent.
î "As a small businesswoman, I understand the importance of reducing tax and red tape. I will be a champion for our more than 18,000 local small businesses, as we rebuild our economy."
î More than $87 million in direct payments to bushfire victims in Eden-Monaro so far, with further funding for local recovery plans.
î "For the past 15 years, I've been a proud volunteer with the Cobargo Rural Fire Service. Like many, we had to fight to save our home. I know what many people are going through. I'm committed to helping our farmers, small business and families rebuild.
î Building Snowy 2.0, which will be the second-largest renewable energy facility in the world.
î Says emissions are lower than in 2013 when the Coalition came into government, and Australia is on track to meet and beat our target under the Paris Agreement, of a 26-28 per cent reduction on 2005 levels by 2030.
î Major highway investment, including Barton Highway duplication, Kings Highway upgrade.
î Merimbula and Tumut airport upgrades, new mobile base stations and delivering community facilities, including a redevelopment of the Bega Regional Gallery.
î Hospital funding has more than doubled for the Southern NSW District since 2013 - from $43m to $108m.
î Additional funding is being allocated for headspace, including fast-tracked access to headspace in Queanbeyan and outreach services
î Around 500 locals have been supported by Primary Producer Grants so far in Eden-Monaro.
î $50 package million will help provide solutions for wood supply shortages and storage for fire-affected logs and forestry products.
î $10 million national program will help dairy farmers improve energy efficiency.
LABOR CANDIDATE KRISTY MCBAIN
î Expand JobKeeper for short-term casuals, and wants government to release plan for post-September, including extending to December for small businesses if needed.
î Local jobs guarantees for Snowy 2.0, the Bushfire Recovery Agency, other local projects and all government procurement.
î An extension of the HomeBuilder program to include bushfire-affected families who are likely to miss the December cut-off.
î Build more resilience into telco transmission towers, including back-up transponders.
î "Eden-Monaro is feeling the impact of climate change in extended drought, longer and more intense bushfire seasons, drier and more extensive fuel loads and a shorter ski season."
î $1 million for local community power hubs on south coast.
î Funding more local land management, including rangers.
î $250 million for the Barton Highway duplication.
î $65 million to build Dunns Creek Road.
î A traffic study to determine future investment in the upgrade of the Princes Highway pinch point at Narooma.
î Upgrade mobile black spots.
î Restoring maternity services to Yass Hospital.
î Restoring GP bulk billing to the Queanbeyan area after removal of subsidy.
î Directing the ACCC to set a minimum farm gate milk price.
î More funding for drought -affected farmers.
Originally published as History hanging on a knife edge in by-election