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Community & Business

5 March, 2023

Barwon the “hot seat” in NSW election coverage

In a rare moment in the political spotlight, Barwon has emerged as an election “hot seat”, with metropolitan media making the large electorate a focus of state election coverage.

By Lucie Peart

Channel 10’s Lachlan Kennedy, recently spent time filming incumbent independent Roy Butler MP in the seat, while National’s candidate, Annette Turner has been touring the region and attending several events with high-profile Nationals, including former deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce MP.

The Nationals have also ushered-out a flurry of funding announcements across Barwon over the last several weeks. Meanwhile, Labor’s 2023 candidate, is Narrabribased high school science teacher, Joshua Roberts– Garnsey.

Late last week, the NSW government surprised parliament by issuing the pre-election shut-down notice for Monday, February 27 — five days before the NSW Legislative Assembly was due to go into caretaker mode on March 3, four-weeks before the March 25 poll. Upper house inquiries underway, however, will still progress, despite the early shut-down.

With the state election now officially looming, candidates have just over a week to nominate their intentions to run for office. The 356,310 square kilometre electorate of Barwon spans the top corner of NSW to the Queensland and South Australian borders, and down/across to Narrabri, Gilgandra, Condobolin, and Ivanhoe.

After 12-year sitting member, Kevin Humphries didn’t contest the 2019 election of the NSW Legislative Assembly — the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers candidate, Roy Butler won the long-standing National seat with just shy of 33 per cent of the vote from Nationals’ candidate, and Gilgandra local, Andrew Schier, at 30 per cent.

Labor’s Darriea Turley was in third at 20 per cent, and another Gilgandra-local, Phil Naden, ran as an independent — coming in fourth with five per cent. This was the high-point for the Shooter’s Party, with their candidate, Phil Donato having won the party’s first lower house seat at the 2016 Orange by-election, followed with the 2019 wins for Butler and Helen Dalton (in the Murray electorate), delivering a promising three seats for the self-styled “National Party alternate”.

However, this promise of change was short-lived, with internal divisions seeing these three regional MPs, now running-as incumbent independents at next month’s election. In March 2022, Ms Dalton left the party due to a disagreement over party members not showing-up to vote in the Legislative Council on a water usage bill.

Then in December 2022, Mr Butler and Mr Donato followed suit to the crossbenches, over comments made by the Shooters’ Party leader, Robert Borsak about their former colleague, Mrs Dalton. Many Nationals members, not just the Barwon candidate Mrs Turner, have been visible in the electorate for months, upping support for the 2019 lost seat.

Sentiment for Mr Butler as an independent may still be high, and his former party hasn’t yet announced a replacement for the Barwon tilt. Support for the local Barwon Labor candidate is unknown at this stage, with NSW Labor announcing a mixed bag of policy positions last week.

The coalition government, meanwhile, has been plagued by personality and transparency issues over the current term, with the resignation of the premier, Gladys Berejiklian in 2021, and a number of unfinalised inquiries into MP’s conduct, conflicts, and after-parliament appointments.

Incumbent premier, Dominic Perrottet, has also had his own personal smear campaign to deal with — revelations that he wore a Nazi uniform to his 21st birthday party.

Opinion polls released this week, are showing an increase in support for the struggling Liberal-National coalition — better than last month’s position — however Labor is still in the lead in the two-party preferred vote. Newspoll is reporting Mr Perrottet as “preferred premier” by 43 points to 33 over the opposition leader, Chris Minns. The upcoming vote is the first post-COVID state election.

It will be interesting to see how the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, coupled with the now extremes in cost of living, play out at the polling booths.

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