THE Riverina and Farrer electorates would be merged into one mega-seat if an early election were called between now and February next year.
Amalgamating the two seats would leave two government frontbenchers, Michael McCormack and Sussan Ley, fighting to save their political careers, with one of the pair either having to move electorates or leave parliament.
Should an early election eventuate, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) would merge the two seats into a single electorate covering more than 300,000 square kilometres and containing around 200,000 voters.
It would potentially force Riverina voters into a second divisive three-cornered contest in just five years.
Mr McCormack said he would definitely run if an early election was brought on and the seats were merged.
“If I wanted a career in politics, I’d have to put my hand up,” he said.
Mr McCormack has ruled out moving seats if a vacancy arose elsewhere to give Ms Ley a free run at a combined electorate.
He labelled the situation “unfortunate” and heaped praise on Ms Ley, describing her as one of the government’s best performers, before declaring: “May the best person win”.
Speculation an early election is imminent hit fever pitch in Canberra this week, with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten telling Labor MPs to prepare for one early in the week.
Government MPs were invited to have photos to taken with the Prime Minister for promotional materials on Thursday in a sign interpreted by some as the Coalition preparing to rush to the polls.
Ms Ley, the Health Minister, was reluctant to buy in to the early election talk on Friday.
“Right now, I am far more interested in trying to deliver as much as possible to Farrer this first term back instead of fretting on any future boundary changes,” Ms Ley said.
Mr McCormack was similarly dismissive of early election speculation.
“Elections cost a lot of money, they take a lot of time to organise … I believe the election will be held next year,” he said.
In the event of an early election, Riverina and Farrer would be merged as they have the lowest combined elector count of any pair of electorates in NSW.
The AEC has determined NSW must lose a seat at the next election at the expense of Western Australia due to population shifts.
If the seats are merged, the combined electorate would only exist for one election cycle. Redrawn boundaries would take effect from the election following.
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