The state seat of Upper Hunter has been a Country Party and then National Party stronghold since the 1930s.
Coalmining is but one aspect of this sprawling electorate, but by standing CFMEU union organiser Jeff Drayton as its candidate, the Labor opposition has made the coal industry - and the union's role in the mining "casuals" controversy - an election issue.
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This is a subject the Newcastle Herald has covered in some depth since 2015, when the rapid expansion of contract mineworking was becoming apparent.
The CFMEU has certainly put considerable effort - in the courts and on the ground - into countering the use of casual behaviour.
But as the Herald has reported, the union's role in negotiating the enterprise agreements that allowed the use of so-called "sham casuals" has not gone unnoticed.
A small group of disenfranchised mineworkers - led by former Mount Arthur labour-hire employee Simon Turner - have been raising these matters since 2015.
They made little headway until late 2019, when Queensland One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts began raising their concerns.
Senator Roberts also questioned the Hawke-Keating era abolition of the government-run Joint Coal Board, and its replacement by Coal Services, owned equally by the CFMEU and the Minerals Council of NSW.
Labor predicted that One Nation would "backflip" on the "casuals" issue, and it did.
When mineworker Stuart Bonds - who rose to prominence challenging Joel Fitzgibbon at the federal election two years ago this month - criticised the decision, One Nation sacked him as a candidate.
Mr Bonds is now backing Singleton Business Chamber president Sue Gilroy as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate at the May 22 by-election.
The Shooters have vowed to introduce a bill that addresses the major concerns raised by Mr Bonds, who is providing the party with documents he says show the role of Mr Drayton in a number of "casuals" enterprise agreements.
Mr Drayton defends his record as an organiser and has disputed descriptions of the agreements as containing "substandard" conditions.
Additionally, One Nation's backflip means various "underpayment" class actions now face a legislative chicane.
Even so, regardless of who wins on May 22, an electoral spotlight is focused on Labor, the CFMEU and the administration of the NSW coal industry.
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