Federal Politics

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ALP shifts office to avoid NSW taint - MPs

LABOR will move its election campaign headquarters from Sydney to Melbourne for the 2013 federal poll, in a bid, MPs say, to distance itself from the soiled political brand of the New South Wales Labor Party and shore up support in marginal Victorian seats.

But the move has elicited criticism from NSW MPs, who argue that the federal 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 Sydney's south-west, held by Michelle Rowland, and Lindsay, also in the south-west and held by Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury.

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


ALP national secretary George Wright said he had been ''agnostic'' about the best location for the campaign HQ.

''My motivation was to find the best facility to run the federal Labor Party election campaign out of,'' he told Fairfax Media.

''The facility we identified as the best is in Melbourne … space, location, the rent, all that sort of stuff.''

Mr Wright denied the move was anything to do with the tainted brand of the NSW branch of the party.

''We will have a strong presence during the campaign in Sydney. We will maintain an office in Sydney, in Sussex Street.''

Earlier this year, the NSW Labor Party revealed its intention to move from the existing headquarters in Sussex Street - and its notorious associations with backroom 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.

The coming year will see the continuation of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into the allegedly corrupt awarding of mining licences to former state Labor minister Eddie Obeid and members of his family.

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

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

But news that campaign headquarters will not be based in the city that some believe is integral to Labor's re-election prospects has annoyed nervous MPs.

''Anyone under 2 per cent can look at doing new things next year,'' one gloomy MP said.

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

In the final Nielsen poll for 2012, Labor was behind on a two-party preferred basis with 48 per cent of the vote and the Coalition on 52 per cent.

The government will head 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.

Suggestions of an election before July were quickly scotched by MPs who point out that it is impractical, given it would put the House of Representatives and Senate out of sync.