Nats under the gun in bush battle
BUSH voters are expected to express their anger with the Berejiklian government in today’s two state by-elections with big swings predicted against the National Party.
Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Party leader John Barilaro flew to Griffith to help his candidates defend the traditional safe seats of Murray and Cootamundra yesterday with high-profile MPs Sarah Mitchell, Niall Blair and Leslie Williams joining him in a show of force. Premier Gladys Berejiklian is also planning to fly to Griffith this morning.
Murray locals said they weren’t used to seeing bitter fighting between candidates in state elections with “country folk usually keeping it polite”.
Mr Barilaro (pictured) said he was aware there was anger against his party but warned a vote for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers would send a dangerous message about gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy.
“(The Shooters’ policy) of 10-year-olds having guns is the story of the day,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said voters would be better off voting Labor than the Shooters because of the gun policies. And fighting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott was also making voters “switch off”.
“People want to hear politicians talking about issues they care about like electricity prices or health,” he said.
ABC election analyst Antony Green predicted the election in Murray would be tighter than Cootamundra because of the profile of Shooters candidate and former Nationals member Helen Dalton and perceptions that former MP Adrian Piccoli hadn’t spent enough time in the electorate. “It’s similar to what happened to the Nationals in the nineties with the rise of One Nation, it’s classic city versus country stuff,” he said. Ms Dalton said she had been hurt by “dirty tactics” such as TV ads focused on the party’s gun policies. “I’m sleeping with one eye open,” she said. But Nationals Murray candidate Austin Evans said attacks on him by the Shooters about his role as councillor had been “grubby” and “untrue”. Labor candidate Michael Kidd said he had never seen so much attention to the seat.