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Kate Hook secures No.1 spot on ballot, but will it make one iota of difference?

The final ballot result. Supplied.

By Peter Holmes

It is the boost any candidate would love to have, but will it make a shred of difference?

Independent Kate Hook was placed first on the federal election ballot paper at a bingo-style draw on Friday in Orange.

She was followed, in order, by One Nation's Stacey Whittaker, The Greens' Kay Nankervis, Labor's Sarah Elliott, the Nationals' Andrew Gee and United Australia Party's Adam Jannis.

Hook, who is linked with the Climate200 movement, appears to be building up a head of steam across the electorate, if the number of posters and volunteers are any guide.

She also has funding, evidenced by the advertisements showing regularly on our TVs.

The top position on the ballot means she will not only be first in people's minds as they scan the ballot, but that she will likely hoover up any voters who can't be bothered and number from the top down.

Realistically, though, how many of these are there?

At the last federal election in 2019 in Calare there were 6,251 informal votes (5.6 percent of the electorate), yet these aren't people who mindlessly number top down from one to six, but those who write messages of protest, doodle male genitalia, these sorts of things.

Kate Hook and Kerry O'Brien at a forum about democracy at the Canobolas Hotel. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

Sitting member Andrew Gee (5) and Labor's new candidate Sarah Elliott (4) will probably be disappointed with their positions on the ballot, however it's not as if it's a humungous Senate-style arrangement, and most voters are more than capable of scanning six names.

A senior figure from another campaign told The Orange News Examiner after the draw, "this is really going to help [Hook] ... it could have quite an impact".

Another source, a senior Labor figure in Orange, said that there was a glimmer of hope that the three progressive candidates (Hook, Elliott and Nankervis) could somehow scrape together 50.1 percent of the vote across Calare, but that it was unlikely.

Gee would have internal polling from across the electorate, they said, and so far there is no sign of panic from his campaign in terms of a big outlay on advertising or big promises, though this may come over the next four weeks.

Green candidate Kay Nankervis at the ballot draw. Supplied.

His efforts during the bushfires won him plaudits from areas hardest hit, however three years of Morrison government have left the LNP brand tarnished. And Gee is part of that brand. Indeed, he was part of the crew that turfed out Michael McCormack as deputy prime minister and replaced him with ... Barnaby Joyce.

One veteran political observer in Bathurst told The Orange News Examiner through gritted teeth that they wouldn't be surprised if Gee increased his vote, irrespective of any national swing against the Coalition.

At the last federal election, in 2019, the composition of the ballot was completely different.

All up, there were 110,539 votes up for grabs in Calare. On first preferences Gee won 44.71 percent of the vote (46,632 votes).

His main competition were Labor's Jess Jennings with 22.13 percent (23,074 votes) and the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers' Sam Romano with 17.38 percent (18,129 votes).

The rest (Fred Nile Group, UAP, Greens and Liberal Democrats) were minnows, attracting between 1.91 percent and 6.06 percent of the vote.

Andrew Gee. Supplied.

On two party preferred vote, Gee won with 63.29 percent (66,006 votes) to Jennings' 36.71 percent (38,282 votes).

So to 2022.

The Shooters, Fishers & Farmers (SFF) party is not running a candidate. State MP Phil Donato told The Orange News Examiner on Thursday that they simply couldn't find anyone who made the grade, and that it was better in that case to not run any candidate.

On the one hand this is understandable, as a rogue candidate or one who is not up to scratch, can damage the party as a whole. On the other it is pretty lame given the SFF head office has had some time to build on Romano's solid vote and find a suitable representative.

The end result is that there are more than 18,000 SFF voters looking for a new home this election.

There are also about 6,500 Fred Nile Group and Liberal Democrats voters needing someone else to vote for.

At the last election Gee scooped up about 20,000 preferences to take him from a primary vote of 46,632 to a 2PP of 66,006. You can assume most of those who voted SFF, Liberal Democrats and Fred Nile Group preferenced Gee.

Meanwhile, Labor's Jennings rose from 23,074 primary votes to 38,382 2PP, presumably via the Greens (6,315 votes) and about 10,000 preferences from the other parties.

If Labor cares at all about Calare in this election it's doing a terrific job of hiding its feelings.

As it has in recent elections. The party's candidate, community midwife Sarah Elliott, was revealed exclusively this week by The Orange News Examiner, two days before Labor officially announced her candidacy.

Labor has given her one lousy month to campaign and let the electorate get to know her. She is pushing an enormous boulder up a very steep hill.

The ALP has held Calare before.

Labor's Sarah Elliott. Facebook.

Yes, ploughing money to fight for a seat where your opponent now has a 13.29 percent buffer may be viewed as throwing good money after bad, but Labor voters in Calare still have a right to feel ignored.

The demographic change in Calare has caused some to ponder whether the vote might shift towards more progressive candidates, but you'd be brave or crazy to think there have been enough tree changers moving in to make any significant difference.

How then could the progressive side of politics scrape across the line with 50.1 percent of the vote?

If Hook ignited a fire in 18-24 year olds, and she and Labor each attracted 20 percent of the primary vote, and the Greens held steady at six percent, a progressive candidate could be within striking distance via One Nation and United Australia Party preferences.

This, however is highly unlikely, as Labor's candidate remains widely unknown, Hook is likely to take votes from Labor and the Greens, and UAP and ON voters are not typically aligned with Labor.

Fun times ahead.

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