Campaigning for the 2019 elections kicked off on Friday with local Labor candidates meeting and greeting shoppers including Dawn Bracken, once a neighbour of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.
Dawn sold her house in Sydney 20 years ago to move here, after recovering from a near-fatal accident in which she was kicked in the head by a horse she was attempting to shoe.
The accident left her blind in the right eye so she cannot use a mobility scooter, and the walk to the shops from a hilly part of town is a challenge in summer heat.
Meeting the two candidates, Mark Jeffreson and Mark Douglass, Dawn said she was a natural follower of Labor, having lived across the road from Gough and Margaret Whitlam’s house in Cabramatta.
“They were lovely neighbours and not long before he died Gough sent me a letter saying simply ‘Dear Dawn, Thanks for the memories, Gough”, Dawn said.
The candidate for the State seat of Cootamundra, Mark Douglass, is the same height (195cm) as Gough Whitlam, of whom he too is a great admirer.
Mr Douglass, owner of pharmacies at Harden, Gundagai and Lockhart, needs a swing of 10 per cent to defeat the sitting member, Steph Cooke, in the State election in March.
He said the number one question people had asked him about was the dispute over council mergers.
“People in Cootamundra, Harden and Gundagai are still up in arms about the government’s forcing the mergers on them, despite the community’s preference for a merger between Cootamundra and Harden, for which the councils had already worked out a strong business case,” Mr Douglass said.
“If Labor is elected we will enable plebiscites in areas where it is clear there is community discontent.”
“Mr Douglass said the second issue people raised was that TAFE did not seem to be offering the same range of courses, and education cutbacks generally, and the third was the drought and climate change.
Mark Jeffreson, a financial adviser who has lived in Wagga for the past 30 years, has a far harder task: he needs a swing of 19 per cent to unseat incumbent Michael McCormack, Leader of the National Party and Deputy Prime Minister.
He said Mr McCormack’s main focus at the moment was on keeping Barnaby Joyce, Bridget McKenzie and David Littleproud out of his office, “because they all want it, and that’s not good for the electorate”.