Battle lines drawn in Lindsay

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David Bradbury refuses to give in.

Perhaps it’s because he has faced such adversity before. After all, he lost twice in his rise to be the Member for Lindsay, and in 2010, the result was so close that he wasn’t able to claim victory on election night.

Or perhaps it’s because he doesn’t really have a ‘Plan B’ if he wakes up on September 8 and doesn’t have a job.

“This is a battle of political life and death for me,” Mr Bradbury admits as he sits confidently in his High Street electorate office, the strains of the early mornings and long days of the campaign only slightly evident.

His opponent at this election, the Liberal Party’s Fiona Scott, will win the seat for the Coalition for the first time since the high profile Jackie Kelly was the area’s representative if polling ahead of the September 7 election is to be believed.

“I’ll see what happens on polling day – I have lost an election and I don’t think getting yourself wound up in those things will help you get over the line on September 7,” Ms Scott said.

The battle plans for Lindsay have been reasonably clear – Ms Scott has been campaigning on the push for change and bringing down the cost of living, while Mr Bradbury has been urging people to check his record of achievement in the local area.

“Part of what I have had to do to win the trust of the people of Lindsay was to demonstrate to them that I could deliver in elected office and that’s why I served our community, and was able to show people that, as the Mayor and a Councillor for many years before I stuck my hand up and got myself elected to Parliament,” he said.

“I put my heart and soul into my representation of our area and the people that invite me to events and see me come along year, after year, after year to their local events know how passionate I am about our community and I want the opportunity to keep doing that.”

Ms Scott doesn’t have the political experience of her opponent but has lived and worked in Penrith for all of her 36 years – and here, that means something.

At the last election, she was pre-selected just days before the election was called.

“Last time I had 39 days and that was a very quick period of time for the electorate to get to know me… I’d lived here my whole life but I guess working in corporate marketing across the region is quite different to working within a political space and getting to know the electorate,” she said.

David Bradbury addresses a candidates debate last week
Ms Scott enjoys enormous support from within the Liberal Party and from media heavyweights like 2GB’s Ray Hadley.

In fact, in the wake of the drama in which Opposition Leader Tony Abbott mentioned ‘sex appeal’ when comparing Ms Scott to Jackie Kelly, Hadley’s high rating radio show was among the only few media appearances Ms Scott made to directly address the issue.

It’s safe ground, particularly given Hadley is one of Mr Bradbury’s biggest and most vocal critics.

“I always liked him as a football commentator,” Mr Bradbury says of the 2GB mornings king, with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt who Ray Hadley wants to win this election. He wants the Liberal Party to win the election – he doesn’t make any secret of that. If he thinks that it will help the Liberals to conduct a character assassination on me, then maybe that explains his motivations.

“I’m pretty tough, but there are plenty of family members that I have that take that (Hadley’s comments) pretty hard.”

Mr Bradbury has some rather interesting advice for Mr Hadley.

“What I would say to Ray Hadley and to anyone that listens to him, is that I’ve thrown myself into the last 14 years of service to our community because

I’m passionate about making this a better place and making our country a better place,” he said.

“I can understand there will be people who disagree with the decisions that I take and things that I might say on occasions, but the great thing about democracy is that it’s open to anyone to stick their hand up and make that commitment to their community and maybe Ray Hadley should consider that one day… if people want to sit in an arm chair or a studio and criticise, if they think they could do a better job, they should put their hand up.”

One gets the feeling that if we were off the record, Mr Bradbury would have even more to say – after all, he knows the kind of power that Hadley and his 2GB colleague Alan Jones, who has also been critical of the Labor Government, wields in western Sydney.

One of Hadley’s biggest criticisms has been Mr Bradbury’s decision to switch support from Julia Gillard to Kevin Rudd back in June – a decision Mr Bradbury describes as one of the toughest decisions he’s made in his life.

Mr Bradbury confirmed he met with Ms Gillard prior to voting for Mr Rudd in the leadership spill and that she took the news “remarkably well”.

“That was a difficult meeting – it was an extraordinarily difficult meeting,” he said.

“In the end the judgement that I’ve taken, I’m comfortable with and I think they were the right decisions to take and that I took them more importantly for the right reasons.”

Fiona Scott with Malcolm Turnbull on Wednesday
Fiona Scott went camping on New Year’s Eve 2011/12.

It was a unique preparation for her speech at the Lindsay pre-selection battle a few weeks later.

“I’d been through an election process, I was acutely aware of the differences between parties, I still had the opportunity to pull out at that stage if I wanted to,” she said.

“I wanted to analyse and critique my motives and analyse and critique my vision and objectives on what I thought was important to achieve, and I wanted to do that out of mobile phone range, out of range of anyone who could influence that process.”

Ms Scott has not escaped criticism or attention during this campaign – the ‘sex appeal’ drama changed the game considerably when it came to her wider profile.

It was an ironic gaffe from Mr Abbott considering some have suggested that candidates like Ms Scott are being heavily stage managed through this campaign.

If they are, it is about avoiding the need to do damage control in Lindsay – which the Liberals had to do plenty of during the flyer scandal of 2007, which still cuts deep in some quarters.

For the record, Ms Scott makes it very clear she was not offended by Mr Abbott that day.

“Tony has been a friend to me for a long time now,” Ms Scott said.

“It was a comment between friends… it was just a light-hearted, fun comment.”

When pushed further on if she was offended, Ms Scott firmly says: “Hell no – definitely not”.

While sipping on peppermint tea (she says she avoids drinking too much coffee during the campaign), at a cafe in Jamisontown, a lady interrupts our interview to praise Ms Scott – “don’t let them get you down Fiona,” she says, perhaps indicative of her new newfound profile since ‘that comment’.

David Bradbury speaking with a local resident
One of the announcements made by the Coalition during this campaign really irked Mr Bradbury.

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott announced $12 million for Panthers’ sports and community precinct during the campaign – but Mr Bradbury had already pledged the $12 million months earlier.

“That is the best evidence that our community has not been neglected. If the best the Opposition could come up with was to agree with an announcement that we’ve already made, then that’s a pretty strong endorsement that I’ve been delivering for the community I would have thought,” he said.

Indeed, it was somewhat telling that in all the fanfare of his first visit to Lindsay during the campaign, Mr Abbott essentially only committed to not stripping funding that Labor had already allocated. It was in some ways a missed opportunity for a Lindsay cash splash, though perhaps the party is already considering the seat secured.

Not that it has been all that much different across the fence – while there’s been funding announcements with Ministers, Mr Bradbury welcomed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to the electorate for the first time during the campaign last Friday, and he made a broad announcement about small business with no specific commitment to Lindsay at all.

Both parties have made relatively small election funding commitments directly to Lindsay, with the bigger issues remaining the focus at this campaign. It is these bigger issues that Ms Scott believes Mr Bradbury needs to be held to account for.

Neglect is a word David Bradbury loathes when it comes to his record in the Lindsay electorate in the past six years.

“You cannot say our electorate has been neglected, it just doesn’t stand up against the facts,” Mr Bradbury said.

Mr Bradbury speaks with pride when he talks about being able to point out things he has delivered in Lindsay when he’s driving around the area with his kids – like the upgraded Nepean Hospital, or local skate parks.

Ms Scott’s version of neglect, however, is Mr Bradbury’s support of controversial legislation such as the carbon tax, or taxes on licenced clubs.

“If he actually thought he was representing his community he wouldn’t have voted for the carbon tax. He would have fought against it in the party room,” Ms Scott said.

“I think it showed he was more interested in being Julia Gillard’s man here than being Lindsay’s man to Canberra.”

Mention neglect to Mr Bradbury though, and you get a very firm response.

“I think it’s a ridiculous suggestion,” he said, more forthright than at any other time during our conversation.

“The areas that we’ve invested in have been dramatic and the suggestion that this community has been neglected under my watch is just wrong – it’s plain wrong.”

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