THE Nationals face further backlash from grassroots members with a call not to contest the seat of Albury in the NSW election next March.
Head office has confirmed the Nationals will be another non-starter in a regional NSW seat following the decision not to run in the upcoming by-election in Wagga as a result of Liberal Daryl Maguire’s resignation from parliament.
The Liberals have held Albury since 1988 when Ian Glachan won the seat back from Labor’s Harold Mair after a 10-year reign in the traditional conservative stronghold.
Merv McIntosh was the Nationals candidate in the 1988 election which was the last time the party stood a candidate in Albury.
At the Nationals’ Albury branch annual meeting last year a motion was passed that in the event of a retirement or vacancy in the electorate, head office be notified members wanted to run a candidate.
Bill Bott, who stood as a Nationals candidate in 2001 when Tim Fischer retired in the federal seat of Farrer, had hoped the party would get a chance to stand in Albury next year.
“I was disappointed and surprised they didn’t run a candidate in Wagga,” he said.
“Having done a deal with the Libs not to run a candidate in Wagga, I suspect there will be a deal in Albury also.
“You’re either a political party or an appendage of the Liberal Party.
“Local grassroots members members join the party with the view at some point they will have the opportunity of contesting and it was certainly denied when Greg Aplin got elected (in 2003).”
But a National Party spokesman said: “The Nationals will not run against the Liberals in Albury, just as the Liberals are not running in seats where our MPs are retiring.”
Federation councillor Fred Longmire said he wouldn’t be renewing his party membership in protest.
“Where is the benefit of being a member of the Nationals in this area when we can’t stand a candidate when a vacancy arises such as what has happened here,” he said.
“These opportunities are very rare.
“Are we subsidising National Party representation in other parts of the state?
“It really is deflating and one questions why you bother being involved as a member of the Nationals.”
Mr Bott and Cr Longmire agreed the Albury electorate was ripe for a Cathy McGowan-style conservative independent assault.
A Nationals Albury spokesman said there would be some “disillusioned, disappointed and downright frustrated Nationals members across south eastern Riverina” as a result of the call by head office not to field a candidate in their own patch.
"At last year’s Albury electorate council annual meeting members passed a motion saying they wanted a Nationals’ candidate to run when the current member for Albury decides to jump off the fence and go home,” he said.
"When the once-in-a-generation chance is presented to give our region a genuine voice to finally remind Sydney that Albury exists, a voice that is not silenced by or dictated to by city factions and city-based parties, we don’t turn up to play."
The Liberal Party has not announced a date for its preselection and confirmed a person had to be a party member for six months to be eligible to run.
But under special circumstances the state executive has the power to choose a candidate.
In 2002, Mr Aplin beat six other rivals, Heather Dearing, Robert Ballard, Gary Poidevin, Bert Eastoe, Simon Playfair and Paul Wareham in the Liberal preselection battle.
Mr Ballard later stood as an independent at the 2003 election when Mr Aplin saw off other rivals including Claire Douglas, Nico Matthews and Heather Wilton.
Mr Aplin easily won the next three elections he contested.
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