Federal election: Andrew Gee and Jess Jennings to contest seat of Calare

BIG THREE: Member for Calare Andrew Gee and Labor's Dr Jess Jennings will have an SFF opponent from Monday.
BIG THREE: Member for Calare Andrew Gee and Labor's Dr Jess Jennings will have an SFF opponent from Monday.

AN optimistic Jess Jennings rates himself a "50-50" chance of becoming Labor's first federal Member for Calare in more than 20 years.

Calare voters will go the polls on Saturday, May 18 after Prime Minister Scott Morrison finally confirmed the election date on Thursday.

So far just two candidates have been confirmed for Calare - incumbent Andrew Gee (Nationals) and Dr Jennings - but the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, which polled strongly across the region in last month's state election, will also announce a candidate on Monday.

Dr Jennings is contesting his third election and hopes to become Labor's first Calare MP since David Simmons held the seat from 1983-1996.

The Bathurst councillor is banking on a combination of a high profile in the east of the electorate and a strong anti-Nationals sentiment in the west of the electorate delivering him a poll boost this time round. "I have to be optimistic," he said.

What do you think?

"What Labor is offering the people of Calare is bigger, better and fairer tax cuts. Anyone under $126,000 will be substantially better off under Labor, and particularly the lower paid workers."

Dr Jennings was not concerned by Labor's poor polling in the Bathurst and Orange state elections.

"Overall, I think people wanted to keep the state government but the federal government, after three prime ministers, has lost the faith of the electorate," he said.

Overall, I think people wanted to keep the state government but the federal government, after three prime ministers, has lost the faith of the electorate.

Labor candidate Dr Jess Jennings

"Bathurst and Orange were both held by incumbent members who were very well-known local figures with good profiles in those cities.

"I've got a good profile in the Bathurst and Lithgow half of the electorate and while I may be not as well known in Orange and Wellington half of the electorate, those are the areas where there has been a strong 'Anyone But Nats' push."

Dr Jennings said he would be happy to preference a SFF candidate over the Nationals but if One Nation runs a candidate they will be placed last on his how-to-vote cards.

Increased health and education funding will be key planks of Labor's election campaign and Dr Jennings said Labor would boost the budget's bottom line by "properly taxing multi-nationals and the top end of town", scrapping franking credits and limiting negative gearing incentives to new homes only.

"That will provide an incentive for investors to invest only in new properties and not existing properties where they are competing with first home buyers," Dr Jennings said.

POLL POSITION: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a federal election for May 18.

POLL POSITION: Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a federal election for May 18.

Meanwhile, Mr Gee said he was happy to stand on his record since becoming the Calare MP in 2016.

He conceded Anyone But Nats would make this election difficult for him but believed voters would be impressed by his record of delivery for the electorate.

"I think people want to see runs on the board and that is what we [the Coalition] have delivered locally over the last three years," he said.

"People want their local members with their heads down working hard and delivering locally and that is the very clear message that has come back from the community.

"In this campaign I'll be running on my record of delivering services and infrastructure right across the Central West."

Mr Gee said among those "runs on the board" were funds for the Glen Willow Regional Sports Complex in Mudgee, a new headspace clinic in Lithgow, aged care upgrade in Wellington, a second race track at Mount Panorama and Blayney CentrePoint sports facility.

The management of the economy and continued economic growth for this region will be a very important issue.

Calare MP Andrew Gee

Other projects in his sights include continued funding for aged care, road networks and health outcomes for country people.

Infrastructure projects he will focus on include: bridge infrastructure especially in the Blayney shire, tourism projects, an extension to the Oberon to Tarana rail line, and Orange's CBD and conservatorium development.

Mr Gee said the biggest concerns for the Calare electorate going forward was "Bill Shorten's proposed new taxes".

"The management of the economy and continued economic growth for this region will be a very important issue," he said.

When prompted, Mr Gee agreed that the drought and its flow-on economic impact on the Calare community were also a major concern.

"As these conditions worsen we're going to have to keep ramping up the drought support to our country communities," he said. "I don't think we're out of this drought by a long shot."

Mr Gee it was likely that many voters were feeling "election fatigue" and a "very short and sharp campaign" towards the federal election would be well received.

"[But] it's going to be a very tough campaign and there's some very tough opponents out there," he said.