Parties note opposition to seat changes

DECISIONS: Hunter Labor MPs Joel Fitzgibbon, Jill Hall and Pat Conroy.BOTH major parties have objected to the proposed redistribution of federal seats in the Hunter.

In October the Australian Electoral Commission announced its long-awaited proposal for adjustmentsto electorates in NSW.

A final decision on the proposal could come as early as this week, but both parties have expressed their opposition to the plan, with Labor saying the nameCharlton should not be abolished, and the Liberal Party arguing the changes would unnecessarily split up a number of local council areas including Cessnock and Port Stephens.

In its submission Labor said the seat of Paterson should be re-named Hunter, and the seat of Lyne re-named Paterson.

Theproposal included sweeping changes to seats in the Hunter. Itessentially abolishedJoel Fitzgibbon’s seatand re-named Charlton, Pat Conroy’s seat, Hunter.

While the decision is not final, it has setoff a domino effect in the region as politicians scramble to secure their futures.

Mr Fitzgibbon is understood to want to remain in whichever seat covers Cessnock. Under the redistribution proposal thatwould be the new seat of Hunter.For that to happen, sitting Charlton MP Pat Conroy would have to be willing to make way.

While members have remained tight-lipped about their intentions, other media reports have speculatedthat Jill Hall in Shortland may choose to retire, allowing Mr Conroy to move to that seat.

Complicating the issue,a number of other candidates, including Lake Macquarie councillor Chad Griffith, a localbranch member and staffer for Ms Hall, as well asNSW Labor assistant secretary John Graham, arealso understood to have shown interest in Shortland.

The seat of Paterson, held by Liberal Party member Bob Baldwin, isnow a notionally Labor seat with a 1.3 per cent margin.He has previously dismissed suggestionshe mayretire after he wasdemoted as a parliamentary secretary to the environment when Malcolm Turnbull deposed Tony Abbott.

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