Federal Politics


Labor fails to ring voters' bells in Eden-Monaro

Eden-Monaro Road Trip:

Graziers Howard and Anne Charles are craving a free trade agreement with China but not even Kevin Rudd's mandarin or farming roots can prompt them to vote for him.

The pastures are a bit dry around their Nimmitabel homestead and the ground also appears parched of votes for Labor.

In the bellwether seat of Eden-Monaro the incumbent MP Mike Kelly faces a tough challenge getting farmers to vote for him because of a title he held two years ago.

"Mike Kelly was parliamentary secretary to Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig when they decided to ban live cattle exports to Indonesia," Mr Charles said.


"That decision really upset the Indonesians and it reverberated south."

Beef producers say a larger supply of cattle on the domestic market is still dampening prices.

"I sold 12-month-old calves recently for $560 a head - before I was getting $760," Mr Charles said.

Many farmers, while recognising the need for animals to be treated well, have thought it was a knee-jerk decision mostly made for political gain and with no thought given to the affect on Australian producers.

While farmers in the Eden-Monaro electorate tend to be mostly conservative voters, it is not true to say that at the end of each long, dirt driveway is a die-hard Liberal voter.

Labor scored about 40 per cent of the two-party preferred vote at the Nimmitabel polling booth in 2010, and other booths across the interior of the electorate recorded similar results in places such as Berridale and Jindabyne.

Mr and Mrs Charles, who have grazed their sheep and cattle in the district for decades, say much of their area has been turned into untouchable national parks by the federal government.

The couple said their paddocks had been overrun by kangaroos and weeds, caused partly by the parks and partly by restrictions on culling and the use of sprays.

Most of all, the Charles' said the Labor government lacked integrity, citing the controversy surrounding embattled MP Craig Thomson as an example.

They also said the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme started in 1949 was a paragon of immigration policy and were disappointed by the current policies of both major parties in regard to asylum seekers.

"The comparison of this story and of the boat people today should make us all feel ashamed,'' Mr Charles said.

Then there was another foreign policy issue that irked them.

For eight years Australia has been trying to strike a free trade agreement with China, six of which were with a Labor government heading negotiations, and they said action was long overdue.

Cooma farmer and swinging voter Michael Green has happily voted Labor in the past but said Dr Kelly had "knifed his commanding officer in the back" when he supported Mr Rudd's coup over Julia Gillard.

Because of this he said Dr Kelly should not be re-elected so he could go on to become defence minister for Labor. "He should have supported Gillard," Mr Green said. "He should have resigned."

Mr Rudd, who grew up on a Queensland dairy farm, has already said Dr Kelly would become defence minister if Labor won the election.

Mr Green said red and green tape was restricting the agricultural industry and country towns.

''The dam being built at Nimmitabel was originally going to cost $500,000 but now that has blown out to $4 million and two-thirds of that is red and green tape,'' he said.

The discovery of threatened species has slowed the project which was supposed to provide a secure water supply for a town that can experience severe water shortages.


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