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Labor outsider makes a bid to represent the b -

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PETER LLOYD: A New South Wales farmer is challenging the State Labor Party to choose her as Bob Carr's Senate replacement, instead of two higher-profile former MPs.

The former foreign minister confirmed a day ago he is quitting the Upper House despite just being elected for a six-year term.

Labor's expected to choose Deb O'Neill as his replacement. She lost her Lower House seat in last month's election. The other candidate is the former member for Eden Monaro, Mike Kelly.

But little-known Vivien Thomson also wants the job. Tomorrow she'll set out on a road trip of about 450 kilometres to collect endorsements from other members of the Labor Party's Riverina branch.

Louise Yaxley is speaking to Vivien Thomson.

VIVIEN THOMSON: I really feel that the rural and regional areas of New South Wales and the remote areas especially need a voice in Parliament and I think that voice needs to come from all sides of politics, not just one area.

LOUISE YAXLEY: What would be the perspectives you would bring?

VIVIEN THOMSON: I'm a mixed farmer. I live in the rural area. I've participated with a lot of things on a national level with different organisations.

But also, we need to get beyond what we're used to. We need to go beyond what we're used to hearing. We need to go out and actually speak with people. We need to hear what they've got to say.

And this Senate seat is not just about the urban areas, the coastal area or a particular electorate. It's actually about the whole of New South Wales.

LOUISE YAXLEY: It looks, though, like it's pretty much the fix is in, if you like, for Deb O'Neill. Does that daunt you?

VIVIEN THOMSON: No, not at all. I've had people say to me, "You haven't got a hope in hell." Or, you know, "You don't have a chance, Vivien." Blah, blah, blah. You know, you can imagine what people are saying to me.

But at the end of the day, if people don't put their hand up and try then, you know, what's the use of having all these wonderful experiences and meeting all these wonderful people and having all this knowledge? It's there to be shared.

And I must say, what consolidated my opinion as well is quite a few months ago I went travelling outback New South Wales with my son. He didn't want an 18th birthday present like most kids or a party or anything. He just said, "Mum, I just really want to go outback." So I had the opportunity to travel through New South Wales.

Now some of those areas I hadn't been to for 20 years, like White Cliffs, Silverton, Pooncarie, Ivanhoe - all of these areas. And these people are just such great people and they need a voice. Their opinion is just as relevant to anyone that lives on the coast, anyone that lives in the big city, and to me that needs to be brought to the table with the Labor Party.

It's about diversity. It's about having different opinions and it's also talking to people that don't always necessarily agree with you, because otherwise you just think whatever you think is right. You need to challenge that perspective and that's part of what I'm trying to do. And I think it's important that someone does put their hand up.

Hey, you know, I've been told I'm an outside shot but that's okay. It doesn't stop you from putting your hand up.

LOUISE YAXLEY: There are calls for it to be a ballot of members, rather than to be done at the executive level. Would you support that?

VIVIEN THOMSON: I do, but it's a very difficult question, though, because at the end of the day, if you put it down to the members, the majority of members are probably in the urban environment, not necessarily in the rural and regional areas.

LOUISE YAXLEY: What are the policies that you think should be being focused on more? For example - carbon tax. That's been a big issue. Where do you stand on something like that?

VIVIEN THOMSON: Well, I think it's too early to get into the policy decisions because really, as I said, what I want to do is go out and speak to people.

And yes, look, carbon tax, the carbon policy: I probably would support it. I’m not - think at some stage we have to start moving forward. But I'm not going to get too deep into policies 'cause, as I said, I'm an outside shot. I want to commit to talking with people and hearing what they say.

LOUISE YAXLEY: What about factional alignment? Where do you sit within the party?

VIVIEN THOMSON: Well, I don't. I'm a member of the Labor Party. I don't think I've aligned with any faction and I've probably never had the opportunity because I'm on a farm.

LOUISE YAXLEY: And where to from here? How do you go about getting the nomination or you're making your case for the nomination now?

VIVIEN THOMSON: I have to actually drive around quite a few areas to actually get all my signatures, 'cause you know, I'm on a farm, I'm in a rural area.

So I'll actually be leaving Muttama and I'll be driving down to Wagga and then I'll be going out to Batlow and across to Tumut and then over to Yass and Jugiong and then back home again to collect all my signatures on my nomination form.

That'll be submitted to the New South Wales Labor Party and then it goes up to the committee next Wednesday afternoon and I guess they'll look at all of those nominations on merit.

PETER LLOYD: That's the New South Wales farmer Vivien Thomson, who's hoping to overcome the weight of the Sussex Street machine and become Labor's next Senator.