Labor candidate for Cowper Andrew Woodward and Rob Oakeshott who is expected to run as an independent.
Labor candidate for Cowper Andrew Woodward and Rob Oakeshott who is expected to run as an independent.

Labor candidate jumps the gun on Oakeshott announcement

AS rumours circled that Rob Oakeshott would announce his intention to run as an Independent for Cowper, Labor candidate Andrew Woodward jumped the gun issuing a press release last week.

The embargoed release foreshadowed a Friday (December 21) announcement.

In August, and again earlier this month, Mr Oakeshott told the Advocate he would make a pre-Christmas announcement but now he is saying it will be in the new year.

Former Nationals member turned independent MP for Lyne Rob Oakeshott famously helped Julia Gillard form government after the hung parliament of 2010. He retired from federal politics in 2013 and in 2016 ran a last-minute campaign against Luke Hartsuyker for Cowper (which by then covered Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour).

He has identified the Coffs Harbour Bypass as an election defining issue.

Contacted in relation to Mr Woodward's press release declaring his 'entry into the race' Mr Oakeshott said:

"Instead of rabbiting on about me, how about we hear from both Labor and the National Party why exactly did they choose to leave the Coffs Bypass to be the last section of Highway upgrade from Hexham to the Queensland border. 

"To date, the Coffs community has never had it explained why they've been placed last on this 20 year project. Labor and the National Party have some explaining to do."

Mr Woodward claims that Oakeshott's entry will only increase the likelihood of the Nationals retaining Cowper.

"If it comes down to a race between the Nationals and Mr Oakeshott, it's highly likely the Nationals will win. Why? The 2016 result indicated more than 20 per cent of Green and Labor voters preferenced the Nationals Luke Hartsuyker instead of Mr Oakeshott.

"In the event this happens again in 2019, then we'll be stuck with a political novice (in the Nationals Patrick Conaghan) most likely in Opposition, for quite some time. It is a lose-lose."

But Mr Oakeshott says this argument: "lacks as much sense as the tired old National Party argument that a vote for Oakeshott is somehow a vote for Labor."

Current Nationals Member for Cowper, Luke Harsuyker, will retire at the next election and the party has preselected Port Macquarie solicitor Patrick Conaghan. Coffs Harbour City Councillor Dr Sally Townley is contesting the seat for The Greens.