IT'S an old political story, but the Hunter Region is often perceived as suffering from a much-disputed condition known as the "safe seat syndrome".
Prior to 2016, the region had five federal seats, but a redistribution saw the electorate of Charlton abolished, bringing us back to four.
In recent history, only one Hunter electorate - Paterson, held by Labor's Meryl Swanson - has swung between the major parties.
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Newcastle, held by Sharon Claydon with a margin of 13.8 per cent, is rock-solid Labor. Shortland, held by Pat Conroy, is also considered safe, but his margin of 4.4 per cent is actually narrower than the 5 per cent cushion enjoyed by Ms Swanson in Paterson.
The fourth seat, Hunter, was also safe Labor until 2019, when party elder Joel Fitzgibbon had his margin shaved to 2.98 per cent.
With Mr Fitzgibbon retired, Labor must defend the seat with an untried candidate in Dan Repacholi. Coalminer Stuart Bonds, who came a close third for One Nation to the National's candidate in 2019, is standing this time as an Independent, and may again play a spoiling role.
All of this is to say that Labor and the Coalition are already going hammer and tongs in Paterson and Hunter.
Today, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce is expected to announce $55 million in funding to upgrade Newcastle Airport's terminal buildings, and a similar amount for congestion-easing roadworks at Morisset.
Opposition leader Antony Albanese, meanwhile, is scheduled to be in Cessnock to announce the first of 50 Medicare "urgent care clinics" Labor is promising to build in a four-year, $135-million program.
The winner-takes-all nature of politics means governments of all persuasions tend to time their funding announcements to maximise their proximity to elections.
A sizeable cheque can overcome a lot of voter resistance, but it would not surprise if a long line of controversies over the politicisation of funding programs, the non-delivery of promises, and the re-badging of old ideas dressed up as new ones, has made Australian voters somewhat wary of politicians bearing gifts.
The electorate will have plenty of chances to weigh the merits of a swag of competing promises as the calendar moves inexorably toward May 21.
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