PATERSON MP Bob Baldwin came out swinging yesterday, using the first exchange of his re-election campaign to brand Labor challenger Jim Arneman a "union hack".
Mr Arneman is preparing for his second run at the Hunter's only marginal federal seat, having won Labor preselection for Paterson unopposed.
The Hunter's four federal Labor MPs were all unchallenged and will take double-digit margins into the election expected later this year.
Mr Baldwin holds Paterson by 0.4 per cent, and said yesterday he would mount a strong campaign. But his first words were directed squarely at his challenger.
"Mr Arneman has gone from a position of respect as an ambulance officer to nothing more than a union hack," he said.
Mr Arneman, an organiser for the Health Services Union, said he thought people were sick of such negative politics.
"I think people are more interested in whether you can find solutions to the problems they bring to you," Mr Arneman said.
Mr Baldwin said he would continue to work hard across the electorate and the election would focus on the effect of climate change policy on the region.
Mr Arneman said he would be pointing to the Government's management of the global financial crisis.
Central Coast seats Robertson and Dobell, held by Labor MPs Belinda Neal and Craig Thomson, will both require preselection ballots.