Pollies draw battlelines in Richmond
By Alex Easton
THE battle for the Northern Rivers is underway, with Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot and her Nationals challenger, Sue Page, firing their first shots in the Federal election campaign.
And they ain??t using pea-shooters.
Ms Elliot, who won Richmond from Larry Anthony in 2004, has flown into the fray early, releasing a list of three reasons why Richmond voters should reject Dr Page and challenging the former head of the Rural Doctors Association to a debate over industrial relations laws.
In her list, Ms Elliot said voters should reject Dr Page because:
Richmond was Dr Page??s second choice of seat (she initially stood for preselection in Page)
Dr Page supported the Coalition??s industrial relations policies, and
Dr Page supported the building of a new dam in the Tweed.
Dr Page was just as quick to hit back, defending her candidacy while accusing Ms Elliot of being held captive by Labor Party policy and being an ineffective MP.
??People in the Tweed say (Ms Elliot) goes to the play-groups and they find her to be a nice lady, but being a Federal politician is more than that,?? Dr Page said.
??You have to have a bit of mongrel in you to get your face out and stand up for your electorate really strongly.??
Dr Page declined Ms Elliot??s invitation to debate her on industrial relations policy at the South Tweed Community Centre on July 27, saying she would prefer a date in August.
Ms Elliot said the refusal amounted to Dr Page ??running away?? from the debate.
??She (Dr Page) needs to come and discuss the effect of the industrial relations laws and answer the concerns about further changes to WorkChoices after the election,?? Ms Elliot said
??I??m happy to debate her on a range of federal issues, such as nuclear power, climate change and health care. I??m disappointed that she??s refused to attend it.??
Ms Elliot said the night would go ahead, as an open forum where residents could air their own election issues.
Answering the criticism that Richmond was her second choice, Dr Page said she lived on the border of Page and Richmond and had strong ties to both electorates.
Dr Page agreed she did support the Coalition??s industrial relation policies, saying those policies had helped deliver low unemployment to the region.
She did not back Federal Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull??s plan to dam the Tweed or the Clarence and pipe the water to South East Queensland, saying the report on the project relied on figures that were 30 years out of date.
However, she said the Northern Rivers ?V Richmond and Page alike ?V had to increase its water storage capacity to cope with its fast-growing population or eventually face the same water shortages as South East Queensland.
The quickest and most cost-effective way of doing that would be to increase the dam heights at Clarrie Hall and Rocky Creek dams, saying a height increase of only a few centimetres would make for a lot of extra water.
Ms Elliot said those comments meant Dr Page had not ruled out a new dam for the Tweed.