During a visit to Merimbula's Club Sapphire, on Thursday, May 7, Labor leader Anthony Albanese made it clear that a major focus of the Labor campaign in Eden-Monaro would be the Liberal Government's response, before and during the bushfires.
He also confirmed that the removal of franking credits - an issue that was seen to seriously damage Labor at the last election - was "off the agenda".
Speaking during a visit to support Labor's candidate Kristy McBain Mr Albanese pointed to Club Sapphire's role during the bushfire crisis where up to 1500 people took shelter during the worst days.
"If you think there's improvement needed in government, send them a message that the complacency that was there before this bushfire crisis wasn't good enough, that the support for small business and individuals wasn't good enough," Mr Albanese said.
He talked of the "triple whammy" that the community had suffered through drought, bushfires and now the coronavirus but he said that Ms McBain had been with the community throughout, as an advocate for the local people.
"It stands in stark contrast to the other side that have shown over recent days that they're more interested in their own careers and squabbling and abusing each other than they are with representing the people of Eden-Monaro," Mr Albanese said in a reference to the recent debacle by potential Liberal and Nationals candidates.
It certainly will be tough to hold this seat which on the current boundaries Jim Snow would never have won.Labor leader Anthony Albanese
He talked of the neglect shown to the community by the government and ongoing issues with people still living in tents and caravans who had lost their homes.
He said people such as casual workers and those in the arts and entertainment industry were getting left behind without support and said the community was the "forgotten people of Eden-Monaro".
Ms McBain said she wanted the voice of the people of Eden-Monaro to be heard and wanted to "carry on the great work done by Mike Kelly".
But Mr Albanese said "it certainly will be tough to hold this seat which on the current boundaries Jim Snow would never have won". Mr Snow was the Labor representative for Eden-Monaro from 1983 to 1996.
Asked whether it would be an easier contest now after the prevarication by the Liberals and Nationals Mr Albanese said it would still be tough.
"We will not be complacent during this by election it will be very tough. In these circumstances people talk about one in 100 years (since the government has won back a seat from the opposition in a by election) but it is 100 years since a pandemic of the scale that we're seeing now. We don't know what the impact of that will be politically," he said.
Next week Mr Albanese will launch his fifth "vision statement" in Canberra, something that will look at future policies in the light of the pandemic taking into account society, the economy and jobs.
COVID-19 has created huge debt for the country and that must have an effect on traditional Labor policies, and in fact any political party's policies in coming years.
"Housing and construction is about to fall off a cliff. The government needs to recognise there will be no snap back," Mr Albanese said.
He said the development of the regional economy needed to be a priority, something echoed by Ms McBain.
Mr Albanese said that the experience of having employees working from home had prompted some large companies to look at how things might change in the future.
"I have been talking to a company that has 30,000 employees and this provides an opportunity for some sections of the business to be located in regional Australia," Mr Albanese said.
He said the private sector would have to take some action itself but that government needed to look at incentives. But he stressed that good telecommunications were a vital part of being able to make such a move.
"Governments need to be prepared to provide the technology," he said.
Ms McBain said that government needed to take regional development seriously and have the necessary broadband available.
"We have places around the electorate where we can't even get a proper mobile signal," she said.
On bushfire responses Ms McBain said the response had been too slow, with no pre-planning.
"We need to work together to get this streamlined," she said.
Over the years as a councillor Ms McBain has accused both state and federal levels of government of cost shifting with local councils losing out.
"I will be taking a number of thing up specifically around local government, my focus won't change."
She said her four years as deputy chair of the Canberra Region Joint Organisation and having lived in Canberra previously for 10 years, would help in the challenge of representing a diverse electorate.
She admitted that any election would be a battle.
"People's view of politics has polarised. I have to get on the inside and change things from within."
Asked about Ms McBain's selection Mr Albanese said Ms McBain was unanimously endorsed as the candidate, "with strong support and nothing but positive feedback". There has been talk about being seen as a captain's pick, but Mr Albanese said that was the way all by elections were done and had given Labor the opportunity to be out campaigning before the opposition had selected a candidate.