The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers have fired the first salvo in the 2019 state election campaign, taking aim at The Nationals.
Riverina spokesman Matthew Stadtmiller called on The Nationals to commit to payroll tax exemptions for the bush by putting the $120 million policy in the upcoming state budget.
“When the National and Liberal government came to power in 2011, they said that New South Wales was open for business,” Mr Stadtmiller said. “Cutting payroll tax will encourage businesses to set up shop in rural areas and give those already in the bush the boost they deserve.”
Charles Sturt University political expert Dominic O'Sullivan said he saw the statement as the beginnings of a serious campaign, with the Shooters taking aim at The Nationals.
“The (Liberal-Nationals) government is reasonably ahead in the polls but it has some problems,” associate professor O’Sullivan said. “There’s been some really serious political mismanagement that started a couple of years ago with the council amalgamations and the proposed greyhound racing ban – those two issues account for the loss of the Orange byelection and swings against the government.”
Last year’s Cootamundra by-election saw a 20 per cent swing away from The Nationals, while there was a 15 per cent drop in the western Riverina seat of Murray. Both races saw strong campaigns from the Shooters and Fishers, which Professor O'Sullivan saw as an indication the micro party was stepping on The Nationals’ toes.
“People are obviously looking for a populist party that’s presenting as an alternative,” he said. “But as the election draws closer people will be more attentive to what’s going on and less susceptible to bribe, which is what the tax concessions for the bush might be. The reality is that is unlikely to be a promise The Nationals or Labor would match because they’d likely have to deliver.”
Member for Wagga Daryl Maguire has already committed to running again, potentially extending his 20-year parliamentary career for a further four years. One Nation senator Brian Burston previously indicated his party will contest the Wagga race and Greens insiders said their party would announce a candidate later this year.
It is understood discussions about a Wagga candidate are underway in the Labor party, while a Shooters spokesman said they would join the race if a suitable candidate was found.