DAYS after Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s head-scratching announcement in Orange this week, it’s still hard to know what she and her advisers were thinking.
When Ms Berejiklian travelled to our neighbouring city on Wednesday, it was obvious that she was going to be bringing an election promise with her.
The Nationals have never really gotten over the loss of the seat of Orange to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers at a byelection in November 2016 and getting the seat back has become more urgent as the polls suggest a minority government after the state election next month.
Ms Berejiklian did bring a promise with her to Orange – but not the sort most people would have expected.
Orange would get a new $25 million sporting precinct, the Premier told the media, but only if the people of Orange voted in the Nationals’ candidate Kate Hazelton.
It was, to say the least, an eyebrow-raising departure from established political protocol.
Voters know electorates are better off when it comes to funding when their member is in government – and even better off when their member is in cabinet, as has been the case for Bathurst with Paul Toole – but rarely does the government spell it out so nakedly.
Ms Berejiklian might have told the voters of Orange that she could only deliver on her $25 million promise if her Coalition was comfortably in government, thus implying that they needed to vote for Ms Hazelton, but instead she issued what sounded like a threat or an act of blackmail: vote for my candidate or the sports complex gets it.
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Was it a sign of desperation from the NSW Coalition? Of a new spirit of risk-taking?
Was it poor advice to a NSW Premier who seems to be at pains to present herself – after the shock and awe of the Mike Baird years – as a steady, careful set of hands?
It’s hard to know. But it doesn’t seem to have gone too well so far.
Orange’s sitting member Phil Donato doesn’t have $25 million to put on the table as the state election draws close, but Ms Berejiklian has given him something else to offer the electorate that might prove to be even more valuable: indignation on their behalf.
The voters of Bathurst, where Mr Toole has had a much more traditional run-up to the election, resisting the urge to issue any similar ultimatums, can only look at what’s going on to our west and shake their heads.