Our say | From the outside looking in, Nats are rattled

PHIL Donato’s surprise win for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party at the Orange by-election in 2016 certainly rattled the Nationals.

And an email exchange between the Western Advocate and the party’s state headquarters on Wednesday suggests they are still looking over their shoulders as the state election approaches in March.

It would be a brave punter who bet against the popular and hard-working Paul Toole retaining the seat of Bathurst for the Nationals at next year’s poll.

There is no doubt he bears scars from a difficult term [many Oberon residents, in particular, will not forgive him for trying to force an amalgamation with Bathurst Regional Council] but Mr Toole started this term with a 15 per cent margin and is continuing to deliver for the electorate.

Just this week alone, as Brenden May was announced as the SFF’s candidate for Bathurst, Mr Toole has helped launch a new crime enforcement squad for Chifley Police District, announced money to build a covered walkway at Kelso High School and begin work on a Great Western Highway upgrade at Raglan, supported the Ask For Angela launch in Bathurst and announced an old barn at O’Connell would be listed on the State Heritage Register.

There is more money flowing into Bathurst than into neighbouring Orange, and that’s the obvious advantage the region enjoys in having an MP sitting on the government’s side of the chamber.

Mr Toole is happily running his own race and is unlikely to appreciate the intervention from head office after the Western Advocate published an article this week introducing Mr May. The head office representative took particular offence at quotes from Mr May that the government was spending $2 billion on Sydney stadiums.

Of course, that was the original [and disgraceful] budget for the Coalition’s proposed stadium redevelopment – only slashed following the inevitable and completely justified outcry from voters. Understandably, though, the Nationals head office does not wish to dwell in the past.

In the normal course of events, a largely unknown and inexperienced opponent making such a claim would be water off a duck’s back for a party confident of retaining its seat. It wasn’t, and the impression created is that the head office is far more concerned than most would believe necessary.

Perhaps they already know something the rest of us don’t.