The gloves are well and truly off for the federal election campaign in Richmond for the poll tipped for later this year, with sitting MP Justine Elliott attacking her former political foe Larry Anthony, who is making a surprise tilt at the seat again.
On hearing the news that Mr Anthony, now the National Party federal president, could run for pre-selection for Richmond, which held for two terms, Mrs Elliot said he was ‘not welcome’ because of his mining interests.
Mrs Elliot says this is because the former Howard government minister and ‘longtime mining lobbyist’ only ‘represents the interests of coal companies’, like the Chinese giant Shenhua for which he works for.
But federal Labor leader Bill Shorten and his agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, have failed to rule the mine out, a fact the local MP is silent on (comment has been sought).
In 2004, Mrs Elliot unseated Mr Anthony, the son of former deputy prime minister Doug Anthony. She won the poll in 2013 on Greens’ preferences and is set to run for Labor again. The Greens’ candidate is Fingal Head local Dawn Walker.
Local media has reported that Mr Anthony is considering vying for his old seat again and is a good chance to win National Party preselection against the party’s previous Richmond candidate Matthew Fraser and Tweed shire councillor Carolyn Byrne, who has also been named as a possibility.
It’s believed the National Party preselection will be held after February when the Australian Electoral Commission is due to finalise new federal boundaries for NSW.
Under a draft redistribution, Richmond is set to include the usually conservative area of Ballina and the Greens-dominated Nimbin area moved to the neighbouring seat of Page.
Mrs Elliot, like many local state and federal Labor and Greens MPs, last year backed the wave of opposition to coal-seam-gas mining in the northern rivers.
Her press release headed ‘Shenhua Mining Lobbyist, Larry Anthony not welcome on the Northern Rivers’ makes no bones at what issue she will pick to beat Mr Anthony, who hopes to capitalise on the popularity of recently-installed prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, as well as the new boundary change.
‘Queensland based Mr Anthony has shown that he doesn’t represent the interests of the residents of northern NSW; he only represents the interests of coal companies like the Chinese coal mining company Shenhua,’ Mrs Elliot said.
‘The fact is, Mr Anthony lobbied to allow the Shenhua Coal Company to have a mega open-cut coal mine imposed on the agriculturally significant NSW Liverpool Plains.
‘This project has been universally opposed by local communities, farmers and environmentalists alike. ‘Mr Anthony’s paid mining lobbyist activities are completely inconsistent with the values of families on the North Coast and nobody can trust our region’s future to the Nationals,’ Mrs Elliot said
In an interview with APN Media, Mr Anthony talked up the chances of his party regaining the seat, held by his father and grandfather Hubert, while not ruling out his shot at seat again, saying if the draft boundaries were confirmed, the the seat’ was is definitely in play’.
‘We have a new prime minister, a new sense of hope and direction that I think the people of Richmond will be a bit more discerning in their vote next time,’ he said.
‘It will still be hard. It is not an easy seat. We will have to earn it if Matthew (Fraser) is the candidate or someone else,’ he told APN.
Mr Anthony was elected federal president of his party last September, and he then rejected claims of a conflict of interest as a lobbyist for the Shenhua mine on the Liverpool Plains.
The company advocated for the controversial Chinese government-owned open cut coal mine, and according to the ABC he severed ties with the project in early 2015.
He told the ABC soon after his presidency win that he was no longer advocating for Shenhua,
‘The role I have taken on now as the president of the National Party is a voluntary role, as far as any kind of government relations work that I have been directly involved in I have ceased doing that, and that is the case with Shenhua,’ he said.
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