Coal miner and union official Jeff Drayton will contest next month's Upper Hunter by-election for Labor

Jeff Drayton
Jeff Drayton

Coal miner and union official Jeff Drayton will contest next month's Upper Hunter by-election for Labor.

Opposition leader Jodi McKay will travel to Singleton on Tuesday to formally announce Mr Drayton as the party's candidate.

His candidacy follows the announcement of the National Party's candidate David Layzell and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party's candidate Sue Gilroy.

At least four candidates are likely to contest the seat, which the National Party holds with a 2.6 per cent margin.

Born in Denman, Mr Drayton has worked in the mining sector for the past two decades.

"I'm putting my name forward to represent Labor in the Upper Hunter because I want to stand up for working people in my community, to fight for secure and good jobs across the Upper Hunter, and to make sure that women and men - and the industries they work in - get the respect they deserve," he said.

"I'm sick of the Upper Hunter being forgotten when it comes time to benefit from all the heavy lifting we do here.

"Whether it's people having a go at coal miners and the coal mining industry who are the backbone of our community, our manufacturing jobs and industries being shipped overseas, or our local TAFE campuses being sold off - we just don't get a fair go here. We feel like we've been taken for granted."

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Ms McKaysaid Mr Drayton's deep-seated connections with the Hunter community made him an ideal representative.

"He's lived here, worked here, and fought for his community for his whole life.

"Jeff has raised his family in the Upper Hunter and not only knows the importance of keeping jobs and creating jobs, but also of ensuring that young people have the opportunity to get a safe, secure and reliable job.

"The Upper Hunter is a diverse region offering a diversity of jobs in agriculture, equine, tourism and viticulture.

"Jeff will help grow those jobs and support the towns and communities that make this region great.

"The Nationals have taken this community for granted for far too long. They've sold the Scone TAFE campus, sent manufacturing jobs offshore and they supported Michael Johnsen for years. The people of the Upper Hunter deserve better and I am confident Jeff is the person to make that happen."

Singleton Business Chamber president Sue Gilroy will represent the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party in the May 22 by-election.

Balance of power: L-R: Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party head Robert Borsak MLC, Mark Banasiak MLC and Upper Hunter candidate Sue Gilroy. Picture: Matthew Kelly

Balance of power: L-R: Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party head Robert Borsak MLC, Mark Banasiak MLC and Upper Hunter candidate Sue Gilroy. Picture: Matthew Kelly

Speaking alongside the party's NSW Upper House representatives Robert Borsak and Mark Banasiak at her campaign launch on Monday, Ms Gilroy appealed to voters to break the Coalition's slim hold on the seat.

"Our community needs leaders not pretenders," she said.

"Unfortunately, we've been a safe seat for too long and that means we've been taken for granted."

"The Upper Hunter is unique. It's a great place to live but we're not getting our fair share. We're constantly told how we are the engine room of the state because of our booming mining and agricultural industries but we've been short changed and overlooked in so many things."

While Ms Gilroy said she believed clean energy could evolve alongside the coal industry, party leader Mr Borsak asserted the party's pro-coal platform.

"I think clean energy is certainly on the table and we need to understand how they (clean energy and coal) can live side by side," Ms Gilroy said.

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Mr Borsak, however, reminded those present that the party backed the construction of two new coal-fired power plants.

"There is plenty of technology around dealing with clean coal. As far as new pits are concerned that's up to the planning laws to sort out and local communities to debate.

The reality is no one including Malcom Turnbull or John Barilaro should be preempting the future or this electorate. They should not be trying to shut down coal industries they should be making sure taxpayers do not subsidise solar power... they are offering no alternative baseload power."

He said the party was still weighing up where to direct its preferences.

"I'm on the record as saying we are in discussion with the Labor Party and we will have a discussion with One Nation if we can," he said.

"I don't believe we could win 50 per cent plus one vote on the first count. We won't beat the Nationals on that basis.

"We have to have an open and frank discussion with the Labor Party and with any other independents that want to run such as One Nation."

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This story Coal miner confirmed to contest by-election for Labor first appeared on Newcastle Herald.