2019 Federal Election: Eight candidates vying to become the Member for New England

MAKE YOUR CHOICE: Residents of the Upper Hunter Shire will head to the polls again on Saturday, May 18. Photo: The Northern Daily Leader
MAKE YOUR CHOICE: Residents of the Upper Hunter Shire will head to the polls again on Saturday, May 18. Photo: The Northern Daily Leader

VOTERS within the Upper Hunter Shire will again head to the polls on Saturday, May 18, as candidates vie for the federal seat of New England.

This election, there are eight contenders to choose from on the ballot paper: United Australia Party's Cindy Duncan, The Greens' Tony Lonergan, Australian Labor Party's Yvonne Langenberg, Christian Democrats' Julie Collins, independents Rob Taber, Natasha Ledger and Adam Blakester and incumbent Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce.

If the bookmakers have it right, Mr Joyce will be returned as the local member on Saturday.

At the time of going to print, his odds on Sportsbet were $1.01 versus Labor at $11.

While the bookies have Mr Joyce as a clear front-runner, his campaign hasn't gone without criticism.

He has been under fire for avoiding candidate forums, including one at the Murrurundi CWA Rooms last week, which was attended by six of the eight contenders.

Mr Joyce was a "no show", along with United Australia Party's Cindy Duncan.

A spokesperson from newly-formed group Concerned Women of the Upper Hunter, who organised the forum, said the New England MP had been repeatedly invited to the forum - but declined.

Questions surrounding the environment and a move to renewables have dominated discussion this election both on a local and national level, as was the case in Murrurundi last week where talk centred around climate, water and coal mining.

A Concerned Women of the Upper Hunter spokesperson said all six of the contenders present, in front of an audience of 60 people, overwhelmingly supported a move to renewables and a transition to clean energy with clear targets.

"Independent Adam Blakester called for a National Commission for water to investigate 'ghost water', while Julie Collins, from the Christian Democrats Party, said the electorate needed policies to 'survive in a warmer world' and in a 'hotter and drier' Australia," the spokesperson said.

Since the election has been called, there have been no big announcements for the Upper Hunter Shire from the federal government.

The 2019 budget, which was announced at the start of April, included confirmation of continued funding of previously announced major projects including $5 million in 2019-20 as part of $65 million the government has already committed to the construction on the $137 million Scone bypass.

The budget also included a commitment of $140 million to upgrade the New England Highway between Newcastle and Tenterfield.

At the same time, a further $200 million was committed towards the Building Better Regions Fund, the same program which is delivering construction of new stables at Hunter Valley Equine Research Centre in Scone.

Mr Joyce announced $800,000 towards the construction of a stable complex at the equine precinct in March while attending the opening of the new White Park arena in Scone.

At the time, he told The Advocate the funding would go towards a 64 horse stable facility that would draw substantial income from trainers seeking to use the highly regarded Scone Race Track and benefit from the region's facilities and services.

He said he was hoping to have both the "Los Angeles and the New York of the thoroughbred industry" within his electorate, referring to Tamworth, home to the state-of-the-art Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre, which has has cemented its reputation as a national hub for equine events.

Polling places open at 8am and close at 6pm sharp on Saturday.

Upper Hunter voters can make their choice at polling booths at Scone High School, Scone, Aberdeen, Blandford and Cassilis Public Schools, Scone Senior Citizens Centre, Gundy Soldiers Memorial Hall, Murrurundi CWA Rooms, Merriwa School of Arts and the Wingen School of Arts.

For individual New England federal election candidate profiles click here.

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