TAXPAYERS face a by-election bill of up to $450,000 if Orange MP Andrew Gee wins Nationals preselection for the federal seat of Calare.
Mr Gee appears certain to win the Orange branch nomination for the April 30 preselection at a meeting today after Orange councillor Scott Munro won the Lithgow nomination on Thursday night.
Lithgow branch chairman Peter Pilbeam withdrew from the contest after previously indicating his intention to run, while Bathurst mayor Gary Rush – another Nationals member still considering a run for preselection – was in Byron Bay attending the NSW Local Government Tourism Conference.
Mr Gee’s supporters are confident he has the numbers across the electorate to win preselection to replace retiring MP John Cobb, but his move to Canberra would come at a high price for taxpayers.
Mr Gee is still less than a year into his second four-year term as Orange’s state MP and his switch to federal politics would see Orange voters return to the polls for a by-election.
A spokesperson for the NSW Electoral Commission said it was hard to predict the cost of a by-election, but suggested $450,000 would be a reasonable figure.
“By-election costs can vary quite a bit depending on the number of polling places and sometimes we run more than one by-election at a time which can bring the cost down, but it would be around $450,000,” he said.
Mr Gee was approached for comment by his local newspaper, the Central Western Daily, but would not speak about the cost of a by-election.
Nationals leader Troy Grant took the same approach, refusing to be drawn on the cost of a by-election in Orange along with suggestions that Mr Gee’s anti-council amalgamation stance had put him offside with his state colleagues.
But he did wish him all the best.
“Andrew is a strong member of my team and I’d be sorry to lose him but he has a passion for federal issues so I wish him and Tina all the best,” Mr Grant said in a written statement to the Western Advocate.