The Labor candidate for Calare, Sarah Elliott, has been thrown in the deep end after a surprisingly smooth pre-selection process and late start to her campaign.
Sarah Elliott is a registered nursing and midwife who has worked in healthcare for decades. She is also an educator and, as a midwife, has worked with Australians across various socioeconomic backgrounds.
“You can really see how bad policy can make or break people,” Mrs Elliot said after the Bathurst candidate forum last week. “As a nurse we have our frameworks to work around to refer people to try and help them. But sometimes you look out and think, surely there’s something more that I can do.”
It is this professional experience that has contributed to her campaign focus.
According to Mrs Elliot, “rural health is in crisis out here.”
She hopes to focus on supporting and educating general practitioners and tackling the social pressures on health workers. “We need to ensure that they are respected and that they are able to stay out here in the country areas.”
The ALP has not published detailed policies for the Central West, however, the regional policies provided by the national Labor campaign focus on reinstating telehealth services, reducing medication costs and funding First Nations health programs. These policies are set to benefit electorates such as Calare.
The other candidates running for Calare have also listed policies about regional health as a priority.
Mrs Elliot lamented that she forgot to address homelessness in her address at candidate’s forum. “It’s an overarching problem for the entire electorate. It’s not just in the cities anymore, it’s now in the regions.”
Once again, specific local policy remains vague, while broad national Labor party policy is available. Mrs Elliot said she plans to “liaise with local governments and state governments to build more social housing,” if Labor wins the seat.
Mrs Elliott is also keen to transform the transport network in the region. She is particularly critical of the overall focus on road infrastructure by the current government, instead calling for more public transport.
Mrs Elliott wants to put investment into the rail network for “freight, as well as rural passengers.”
A Late Start
The announcement of Mrs Elliott as the Labor candidate for Calare came on April 21, leaving her with only one month to get around the electorate and promote herself. By that date she had already missed the opportunity to speak at a variety of candidate panels. This absence was noted by the local Bathurst newspaper, The Western Advocate, on March 2.
The article noted: “Although the bookies are favouring Labor to win the majority after the election, it’s clear the party will need to do something spectacular if it wants to win over Calare voters.”
There is also a notable lack of Labor advertising in the region as election signs for all other candidates have been in place for weeks with no showing for Mrs Elliott.
In spite of these setbacks, Mrs Elliott is optimistic about her campaign. “We can reduce that margin and show that Labor has a good presence, which. given how late we were entering this campaign, sounds a little bit ridiculous, but we can still show that we have a presence that we can build Labor’s profile. If nothing else, it can set up the next election.”
Mrs Elliott has taken over the reins from previous Labor favourite Jess Jennings who maintained Labor’s position in second place for Calare in federal elections since 2013. The pressure is on for Mrs Elliott to keep up this position as viable competition from the independent Kate Hook.