Shooters up in arms over nurse
Shooters MP Robert Borsak has accused the NSW Nationals of more favours for mates after the by-election announcement of a high-school mental-health nurse was made at the school at which the Cootamundra Nationals’ candidate’s husband is the principal.
Steph Cooke is the candidate for Cootamundra for the Nationals and her husband, Keith Duran, is the principal at Young High School. This week, the parliamentary secretary for the deputy premier, Bronnie Taylor, announced a “state-first school health pilot program designed to improve the mental health and wellbeing of primary and highschool students in Young’’.
“Ms Taylor said the NSW government will employ a dedicated wellbeing and health in-reach nurse to co-ordinate physical and mental healthcare support for students as part of a two-year trial program,” the statement said.
Mr Borsak said the decision to fund the trial at the school where the Nationals candidate’s hus- band was the principal was questionable.
“I think this raises questions about National Party porkbarrelling right in the middle of a by-election,” Mr Borsak said.
Ms Cooke said Young was an area with high self-harm statistics and “if I lose some votes because of the politics around this appointment but it saves the life of a single student or stops another harming themselves, I will still consider it a good decision”.
“It wouldn’t matter if the Shooters Party candidate was the principal of the school, the appointment of a school nurse was needed and still would have happened,” Ms Cooke said.
“It is no secret that suicide is a major issue across all regional areas and we know that Young is particularly affected. To try and politicise this for an election when Young has one of the highest rates of self harm is a new low.’’
Mr Borsak’s accusation comes amid heated contests for the Cootamundra and Murray byelections tomorrow between the Nationals and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.
The Nationals were accused yesterday of distributing on car windshields letters from former prime minister John Howard criticising the Shooters, and articles documenting an elephant shoot in which Mr Borsak took part.
State Nationals director Nathan Quigley admitted this had happened and said a staffer had been told to desist.
There were other accusations in parliament yesterday. Police Minister Troy Grant said the Shooters MP for Orange, Philip Donato, had misled the house and should apologise.
Mr Donato had lied when he said he had been refused a meeting by deputy police commissioner Gary Worboys to discuss a proposal to merge rural local area commands, Mr Grant said.
In fact, Mr Worboys had received no attempted contact from Mr Donato, Mr Grant said.