It looked like a political ambush, but Labor candidate Jason Yat-sen Li says he got his word in despite being upstaged by Tony Abbott in his own electorate.

Mr Li on Monday spoke at a NSW Business Chamber event in North Ryde, a suburb in the heart of the electorate of Bennelong he hopes to win on September 7.

But the Labor hopeful, handpicked by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, was forced to play second fiddle after Opposition Leader Tony Abbott arrived to a warm reception with a full media pack in tow.

Mr Li faced a tough crowd after Mr Abbott, Liberal MP Bruce Billson and local MP John Alexander warmed up a receptive audience.

Mr Li wouldn't comment on whether he felt set up.

"I think the NSW chamber only learned about the plans very early in the morning as well, so they had very little notice," he told reporters.

"We came here in good faith and we said what we had to say, so we're happy to be here."

It wasn't easy for the Labor candidate, who was accosted as he walked off stage by a local businessman who asked Mr Li to spell out his credentials.

Mr Li said he had "vision" and "courage", but Epping businessman Warwick Stacey wasn't convinced.

"I have not seen that in the Labor Party," he quipped.

A recent poll shows Labor is facing annihilation in Bennelong, with Mr Li trailing Mr Alexander 65 to 35 on a two-party preferred basis.

Mr Li dismissed the poll, admitting that while he was behind things certainly weren't that dire.

"We don't believe in that particular poll," he said. "We are the underdogs, but it's certainly not as bad as that poll showed."


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