Anti-genetically modified foods campaigner Julie Newman has backed out of a pledge to run against National Party MP and Agriculture Minister Terry Redman at the March 9 WA election.
In the first casualty of campaigning season, the veteran pastoralist Ms Newman said she’d had some personal setbacks informing her decision not to contest Warren-Blackwood.
She also believed unrest within the National Party could contribute to Mr Redman’s downfall.
“There’s that much unrest with Terry I don’t think I need to (stand),” she told the Times.
“I don’t think I need to spend all that money and time.”
Although she believed ructions within the National Party from older grassroots members was one source of unrest, she also believed the many voters who’d had their noses put out by Mr Redman’s support for GM crops would also go against him.
She tipped an increase in the vote to independent and Greens candidates, but later conceded irate farmers, particularly in the dairy industry still smarting from price pressures, were more likely to vote for the Liberals.
“It’s not just the GM issue,” the former Independent candidate said.
“He’s just such a yes man. The National Party’s become a multinational party. He’s just not representing farmers any more.”
Mr Redman said he wasn’t going to get into a personal slanging match over Ms Newman’s decision not to commit to her previous challenge.
“Clearly it’s a better position for me,” he told the Times.
He didn’t think Ms Newman’s decision would greatly affect the outcome of the poll and said voters would decide which way they wanted to go on March 9.
“We will always be measured on performance and anyone who looks at Terry Redman during the past four years and how he’s gone will be able to put ticks and crosses against a whole range of things,” he said.
While acknowledging there was a plurality of views on various issues among farmers, Mr Redman didn’t give much weight to claims of dissent within National Party ranks.
Liberal Party candidate Ray Colyer said he hadn’t received strong feedback during doorknocking that some disgruntled Nationals voters might switch to him.
He wasn’t aware of Ms Newman’s decision and also said he wasn’t able to speculate about what it would do for the electoral race.
Greens MLC Giz Watson spoke on behalf of Warren-Blackwood candidate Nerilee Boshammer who was gagged by her employer from talking to the media.
Although the Greens had welcomed Ms Newman’s views on GM and taking that fight to Mr Redman in March, she also acknowledged the Green vote would benefit from anti-GM voters sticking with the party with the strongest stance against the issue.
Ms Watson also backed claims unhappy farmers might switch their votes away from Mr Redman, who was seen as too friendly to the agritech sector.
“We’ve actually spent a lot of the past nine months down there talking with farmers,” she said.
“There is a change in the air.”