Independent Upper Hunter candidate Kirsty O'Connell says the major parties will not have an "honest conversation" with the electorate about the future of mining because they are scared it will cost them votes.
Ms O'Connell, a fifth-generation Aberdeen farmer and community engagement specialist, has become a prominent player in the May 22 by-election after her push to stop new coalmining projects received an endorsement from Malcolm Turnbull last weekend.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro attacked Mr Turnbull for "treachery" after the former prime minister snubbed Nationals nominee David Layzell and backed Ms O'Connell's campaign instead.
The Nationals, Labor, One Nation and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have all selected pro-mining candidates for a by-election which could cast the Coalition into minority government.
Talkback host Ray Hadley suggested on 2GB on Tuesday that Ms O'Connell's agenda to "stop coalmining continuing in the Hunter Valley" was at odds with her work history, which included promoting coal-seam gas projects for AGL in 2013-14.
Mr Hadley also said he had "photographic evidence" of a Labor campaign worker "setting up" advertising material for Ms O'Connell at a pre-polling booth in Singleton. He said the "strange twist" showed Ms O'Connell was the "de facto" Labor candidate who would "obviously" share preferences with Labor's Jeff Drayton.
The campaign worker told the Newcastle Herald that she had helped all the parties set up their A-frame advertising "because that's what you do in a country town".
Ms O'Connell confirmed she would direct preferences only to other independents and lashed both sides of the political establishment for playing "stupid games" and delivering "platitudes".
She said she was not anti-coal, did not want to close down mines and had not made a secret of her time with AGL, which had helped inform her views.
"The reason none of the parties want to have an honest conversation with my community, the conversation we deserve, is because they think it will cost them votes. That's what it boils down to. They know the truth. They're not prepared to tell the truth," she said.
"Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. I'll guess we'll see on election day. But I think I'm being honest that it seems clear the world is moving away from coal, we need a plan, and to me that plan should include a fairer share of royalties to invest in local services and amenity.
"Everybody ... knows there will be a decline in demand. They know that Singleton and Muswellbrook will be the worst-hit towns, and yet they come to this election telling us we don't need a plan; we don't need transition; we need new coal.
"Big institutional investment, a transition authority, early action and support for workers. We are seeing none of those things."
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She said a transition plan should include incentives for small business to diversify and a ban on new mining projects to give investment certainty to the farming, equine and tourism sectors.
"We have a fertile river valley three hours from 5 million consumers in Sydney. Are you honestly telling me we can't afford to have a diversified economy, that there aren't opportunities for agriculture and food and wine and horse breeding and tourism, that those industries couldn't be developed further rather than us just putting all of our eggs in the coal basket?"
Ms O'Connell said hospitals, school funding and air quality were other pressing issues for the electorate.
NSW Health statistics show Muswellbrook council area has the second highest rate of preventable hospital deaths in the state, behind only Broken Hill.
"You are three times more likely to die in Muswellbrook Hospital of a preventable reason than you are in some of the best hospitals in Sydney," Ms O'Connell said.
"I was born at Muswellbrook Hospital. My mum was a nurse there. It's now a hospital where you can't have an epidural."
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