Nats, Libs joins forces to win Richmond

By Peter Caton THE fight for the seat of Richmond in this year's Federal election is set to take a bizarre new twist, with the National and Liberal parties to both field candidates in a bid to bring down incumbent Labor MP Justine Elliot.

The Sydney-based head office of the Liberal Party has called for nominations for Richmond, but potential candidates have not yet publicly put their hands up. They could have months to do so, with the party yet to decide on a deadline for nominations.

But the party is determined to run a candidate against the Nationals' Dr Sue Page, splitting the conservative vote and setting some of their supporters against each other.

Former Tweed Shire councillor and president of the Liberal Party's Richmond Federal Electorate Council, John Murray, ruled himself out as a contender, but said he expected a number of 'good potential candidates' to put their names forward.

Mr Murray said one nomination had been received and he was 'talking to others as well'. "My position is to encourage people to nominate and to even search out possible contenders," he said. "We will be standing a candidate."

Mr Murray said demographic changes had made the seat winnable for the Liberals and running both Liberal and National candidates would maximise the conservative vote under the Federal electoral system, where allotting preferences is compulsory.

"The Tweed has become more of an urbanised seat than the country seat it was," he said.

"A lot of that growth has been from metropolitan areas, from Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong and Melbourne."

Dr Page was unfazed by the additional challenge in her bid to win Richmond, saying another candidate would make the contest 'very interesting'.

Ms Elliot said the prospect she would face both National and Liberal challengers showed 'major divisions' between the two Coalition parties and she would be also asking the Liberal candidate to debate industrial relations.

Tweed Nationals president Murray Lees said the move would split the conservative support base, but under the Coalition agreement the Liberal Party was entitled to stand a candidate.

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