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Spirited start to election campaign

Thursday, 10th February, 2011

By John Casey

Broken Hill voters are in for an entertaining ride in the lead up to the March 26 NSW state election judging by this week's narrative in the Murray-Darling electorate.

A bitter war of words is already underway between sitting member Mr John Williams and Labor Party candidate Mr Neville Gasmier with both men indicating they were looking forward to a robust campaign.

Yesterday Mr Gasmier angrily labelled the sitting member as "rude, arrogant and showing contempt" by refusing to acknowledge him by name.

"Worse than that, Mr Williams is clearly taking all the people of Broken Hill for granted by officially launching his campign from Deniliquin and leaving himself only six weeks to cover this huge electorate," Mr Gasmier said.

"John says I won't have a voice, which he knows is absoloute rubbish because anyone who knows me will tell you I am vocal and vigorous in making representations at the local government level and if I'm elected the same will apply at state level.

"However Mr Williams denied he was making the election campaign personal and challenged Mr Gasmier to "stand on his own two feet"."If Peter Black (ALP Murray-Darling campaign director) is taking over the candidacy from Neville Gasmier then that is his problem," Mr Williams mocked.

"As far as ignoring Broken Hill people, well that is just a crazy and unfounded criticism, but you have to expect that in politics."In this game you can't afford to be thin skinned and to be honset so far I feel as though I have been hit by wet lettuce leaves by my opponents," he added.Mr Williams, who has been in Deniliquin and Hillston this week, said he would be back in Broken Hill tomorrow.

"During almost four years as the local MP I have worked on the theory that Broken Hill represents about one-third of the votes in the electorate, so I try and spend about one-third of my time there," he said."Obviously at times of crisis in other areas of this vast electorate that isn't always possible, but Broken Hill is my home town, I've supported the community in a great many ways and will continue to do so.

"The reality is that in other parts of Murray-Darling I've been accused on being too Broken Hill-centric," Mr Williams continued. As the sitting MP, Mr Williams said his day to day role had recently taken him to all parts of the electorate and until the election writs were issued - usually around two weeks before polling day - he would continue to service his constituents.

"I'm not even officially a candidate until the writs are issued, so unlike Mr Gasmier I don't have the luxury of being able to spend all my time on the campaign trail," he said. Having toured the electorate from Broken Hill through to Deniliquin, Hay and Balranald, Mr Gasmier said he was feeling "quite comfortable" with his campiagn so far.

"The feedback I am getting is very positive, people have been very welcoming and tell me they appreciate the chance to personally air their concerns," Mr Gasmier said. "From my perspective this campaign is all about listening to the communities rather than me telling them what I think. "Voters aren't interested in me making personal attacks like John Williams has, so I will continue to keep holding him accountable for what he has done - or, more accurately, what he hasn't done," he continued.

"That is the role of those elected whether it be at local, state or federal government level and my experience as a Broken Hill City Councillor holds me in good stead. "Mr Gasmier was also adamant there was no danger he would be overshadowed by his campaign director, Peter Black, who represented the Murray-Darling electorate from 1999 to 2007. "There is nothing Ground Hog-dayish about this. Everyone knows Neville Gasmier is the Labor candidate and the great working relationship I have with Peter Black makes us a formidable team.

"I'm not even thinking about what the future holds if I get beaten in this election. My aim is to run the best campaign that I can, put all my energies into that and worry about other things after polling day," Mr Gasmier concluded.

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