The incredibly marginal electorate of Moreton in Queensland was the first cab off the rank for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s election campaign, but the sitting member, Labor’s Graham Perrett, says his electorate needs more than just a pit stop.

Turnbull this morning donned the high-vis and visited Brisbane Markets as his first official stop on the election campaign, appearing alongside Liberal candidate for Moreton Nic Monsour, the brother-in-law of the last Liberal leader to be kicked out of office after just one term — former Queensland premier Campbell Newman.

Turnbull chatted with wholesale fruit sellers about the free-trade deals with China and his first job as a banana seller. Sitting MP Graham Perrett tells Crikey it’s not the first time his electorate has been targeted by Coalition leaders.

“We’re used to conservative leaders coming briefly, [and] leaving. I think Tony Abbott went to those same markets three times in the last election.”

At the last election, Perrett — who has held the seat since 2007 — defied the trend and received a swing in his favour on a two-party preferred basis of 0.4%. He said he is hoping the former prime minister makes another visit during this election campaign.

“I’m just hoping. There’s only so many times Tony Abbott can come. I can only hope.”

Perrett, by comparison, started his day by dropping his son off at school and going for his usual morning walk. He will be campaigning today and every day in the lead-up to the election, he says. Perrett says that having one of the most marginal seats in the country means you’ve got to work hard and be connected to the electorate. One of the biggest issues facing his electorate is the Horticulture Code of Conduct, brought in by the Nationals in 2007 and reviewed by former small business minister Bruce Billson and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce last year.

The code means that sellers in the Rocklea markets, for example, need to agree to a price to sell the produce stock when it arrives at the market, which is often in the early hours of the morning. Perrett says that is not practical, and has previously said in Parliament that the restrictions do not apply to the biggest buyers of produce: Coles and Woolworths. The code is designed to protect farmers, but results in more red tape and bureaucracy for wholesale sellers like those in the Rocklea market who have sold to restaurants and supermarkets on behalf of farmers for generations, Perrett said.

“It’s a complete joke. Their grandparents were selling these products, and if you get a bad name in the fruit industry, people don’t put their produce through you. It’s just one of those red tape things gone mad that I’ve been trying to get sorted for the last three years. It’d be nice for them to get the PM’s attention to fix that.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey