News Election 2016 The town that predicts election outcomes

The town that predicts election outcomes

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Dalmeny is quiet at this time of year, without the usual summer tourists basking in its spectacular coastline.

But the tiny seaside town could get a little more attention with the upcoming federal election.

It sits in the electorate of Eden-Monaro on the New South Wales south coast – a bellwether seat that has gone the way of government in elections since 1972.

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Former Liberal local member Gary Nairn came up with a theory: a poll of Dalmeny residents was all you needed to check the nation’s political pulse.

But many residents are still not sure which way they will go on July 2.

“People are very disappointed in Malcolm Turnbull’s to-date efforts and apprehensive about going back into a Labor government,” resident Loretta Creevey said.

Others said they were holding out for a better option.

“What we need is a really good leader – I like John Howard,” local woman Enid Brooker said.

Trying to be something to all people

The Eden-Monaro electorate is the size of Switzerland.

It spans from coastal towns like Dalmeny to the tip of Mount Kosciuszko, more than 2000 metres above sea level.

Dalmeny is one of many towns dotting the NSW far south coast in the Eden-Monaro electorate. Photo: ABC

It also incorporates dairy country around Bega, vast sheep farming plains, snow resorts and the towns surrounding Canberra.

The local member here has to be something to all people.

Incumbent Liberal MP Peter Hendy said it was a juggling act.

“Out of 196 countries in the world, geographically this electorate’s bigger than 65 countries,” he said.

“People on the coast sometimes have a very, very different view to people who live in the Snowy Mountains or over at Tumbarumba and Tumut.”

Dr Hendy is passionate about economic policy and has a background advocating for business.

He was also instrumental in making Malcolm Turnbull the prime minister and said it had been a popular move.

“He resonates with the electorate,” Dr Hendy said. “He’s very popular in this part of the world.”

The electoral boundaries in Eden-Monaro have shifted further inland this year to include the old timber industry town of Tumut and Yass on the Southern Tablelands.

Eden-Monaro stretches from the coast across the Monaro plains to the mountains. Photo: ABC

The change is expected to deliver a slight benefit for the Coalition but it is not expected to change the seat’s bellwether status.

The candidates for both major political parties have already been active in the new area in a bid to garner votes.

‘Got a photo of him?’

But some business owners have complained they do not see enough of their local member.

Newsagent Ross Ritchie’s shop is opposite Dr Hendy’s Bega office.

But he said he rarely came across him.

“Most people down here will say he’s an unknown quantity,” Mr Ritchie said.

“He did make one useful contribution – he was obviously one of the organisers of getting rid of Tony Abbott.”

Dr Hendy said he wanted to become a more familiar face, but that would take time in such a diverse area.

“Gary Nairn, the previous Liberal MP, said that people didn’t stop saying things like that in a rural seat until he was a member for nine years,” he said.

“You’re spread very thinly.”

Trying to make a comeback

It is not a problem that his opponent appears to have.

Former Army colonel Mike Kelly’s family has ties to the region that go back to 1847.

Dr Kelly held the seat until the Rudd-Gillard government lost power in 2013.

He said it was not a lack of popularity that lost him the last election.

All eyes could be on the seaside town of Dalmeny on election night. Photo: ABC

“They showed me the research afterwards which showed the personal approval rating was high,” he said.

“The biggest single issue people identified was the leadership dramas that were going on at the time.”

But Dr Kelly’s popularity may not be enough to get him his old job back.

“He did do a lot for the local community in the last term, so that will be in his favour, but at the end of the day who are you voting for to be the prime minister?” publican Mitch Creary said.

“I don’t know whether Bill Shorten’s ready for it.”

Mr Creary said many locals were more concerned about the major parties’ policies on issues such as employment.

“We live in a beautiful part of the world here, but there’s not many jobs,” he said.

“I’m really seeing that in our business – the discretionary spending’s not there because people have no money.”

Many residents were not willing to hazard a guess which candidate would be successful come election night.

“It’ll be closely contested and I’m not a betting man,” car dealer John Stylianou said.

“But I wouldn’t bet on either of them.”


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