Northern NSW in grip of Nationals

ALMOST out of nowhere, the National Party is now a major political force with the Coalition’s bruising state election win.

The Nationals won 18 of the 20 seats they contested – a 90% success rate – and at this stage look like welcoming nine new members to the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council.

The party now holds every regional seat in NSW except for Northern Tablelands, defying the critics who long ago consigned them to the dustbin of history.

“Having put their trust in the NSW Liberals and Nationals on Saturday, regional NSW now has a strong, united voice in the new State Government,” said Nationals leader and new Deputy Premier, Andrew Stoner.

“With the support of people across regional NSW, I am now about to implement significant structural changes which will see the interests of regional NSW placed at the heart of government, whether it is the permanent regional member on the board of Infrastructure NSW or the unit of Deputy Premier I will establish within the Department of Premier and Cabinet.”

Nationals stalwart Garry Nehl, who held the federal seat of Cowper from 1984 to 2001, said the pundits at every state and federal election predicted the demise of the National Party.

“They say we’re dying and we will be wiped out but that certainly didn’t happen this time,” Mr Nehl said.

“While I’ve not been in parliament for 10 or 11 years, I can tell you we all work our guts out looking after people.

“The p in parliament stands not for politics or pride. It stands for people.

“Every National Party member, whether it’s state or federal, is totally committed to helping and serving people.

“They work for all people in their electorates, not just the ones who voted for them.”

Mr Nehl said the National Party stood for serving rural and regional NSW and “doing everything possible to help people”.

The Young Nationals state and federal president, Sarah Johnston, said the party’s chances had certainly been helped by having younger candidates.

The 28-year-old looks like taking her place for the Nationals in the Upper House but she will have to wait a few more days to have this confirmed.

“I think we have done quite a bit of re-invigorating of our local candidates and we’ve had a few younger people coming forward,” Miss Johnston said.

“People have had the mood for change. I was 13 when the Coalition was last in power and I think people of our generation haven’t known anything better.

“When given the opportunity to vote for a Coalition government, they’ve done so.”

Miss Johnston said the National Party was still ‘very relevant’.

“People living in regional communities want to have their voices heard. A lot of our local members have been in for a long time and I think this election has proven there is a real place for the Nationals in state parliament.

“Our tagline is regional NSW – we have a commitment to areas outside the city and we understand the needs of regional communities.

“They will now have a strong voice in government.”

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