The federal election is fast approaching but two state by-elections in major electorates in NSW next week will provide an early indicator as to what voters are thinking.
The regional electorates of Monaro and Bega are both heading to the polling booth on Saturday, 12 February.
Monaro covers an area of 20,470 square kilometres and is dominated by Queanbeyan on the border between NSW and ACT, but also includes Bungendore, Braidwood, Cooma, Bombala and the Snowy Mountains.
The by-election there has been triggered by the resignation of former Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro. He announced his decision to retire on 3 October 2021, three days after former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation.
The seat has been described as a traditional bellwether electorate, returning a member supporting the government in 27 of the 30 federal elections since 1927. It has been held by the Nationals since 2011.
Six candidates are standing including Nichole Overall, wife of the former mayor of Queanbeyan, who will represent the Nationals in place of Mr Barilaro.
Bryce Wilson is standing again for Labor after an unsuccessful campaign at the 2019 NSW election.
He is a current councillor for Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC), having been elected in December last year.
The Greens are represented by Catherine Moore, a long-time Braidwood resident who has contested the seat four times at state elections between 1995 and 2007, and was the party’s candidate for Eden-Monaro at the 2010 and 2013 federal elections.
Animal advocate, activist, author, public servant and environmental scientist Frankie Seymour is also standing again for the Animal Justice Party. She previously contested Monaro at the 2019 NSW election and Eden-Monaro at the 2016 federal election.
Also on the ballot paper will be Andrew Thaler, owner of a scrap metal recycling business in Cooma, who will be standing as an independent.
James Holgate, who has stood for the electorate twice before and also for the recent QPRC election, will represent the Sustainable Australia Party.
A by-election in Bega has been triggered by the resignation from parliament of former Transport Minister Andrew Constance on the same day as Mr Barilaro.
Mr Constance will represent the NSW seat of Gilmore for the Liberals in the federal election.
Bega has been held by the Liberal party since 1988.
Standing in Mr Constance’s place will be Fiona Kotvojs – a long-time Bega local and Liberal candidate for the overlapping federal seat of Eden-Monaro in 2019 and at the 2020 by-election.
Six other candidates will be contesting the election – Jeffrey Hawkins and Ursula Bennett are standing as independents, Labor will be represented by local obstetrician, gynaecologist and university lecturer Michael Holland, The Greens by the owner of Cafe Evolve Peter Haggar, Sustainable Australia Party by journalist, academic, and author Karin Geiselhart, and Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers by Victor Hazir.
Pre-poll voting for both electorates began on Monday 31 January, but for the first time in Australia’s election history, all voters will be sent a postal vote pack, negating the need for voters to attend a polling place.
Voters can either choose to use these or attend a pre-poll centre between now and 11 February, or a polling place on 12 February.
Postal votes must be completed by polling day and returned by Friday 25 February at the latest.