“A minority government is not something that we want to see. We see what happens upstairs in the Upper House. This seat has now become crucial in relation to the management of government and going forward so the spotlight is all on the Upper Hunter. Tomorrow I’m confident the voters will get it right whatever way they vote but we’ve put our best case forward, there’s nothing left in the tank,” NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
ON the eve of the Upper Hunter by-election, NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro acknowledged the Coalition could face a minority government if voters abandon them but is confident they will win the tight seat.
Unless the Nationals hold their grip on the seat, the Berejiklian government will lose its working majority with Mr Barilaro saying he recognises it’s traditionally difficult for sitting governments to win.
Mr Barilaro praised Nationals Upper Hunter candidate David Layzell and said it’s been a long and tough campaign but pleaded with voters “not to change the jockey mid-race” during the Nationals door stop interview with media at Singleton’s Pritchard Park today.
“We find ourselves in a by-election and looking at the polls, we feel it’ll be a tight seat but we’re feeling confident. From the data coming through, it will be a tight race but I’m feeling confident. We’ve put our best case forward, there’s nothing left in the tank,” Mr Barilaro said.
“David Layzell has been out there engaged, bringing those issues to the forefront. By-elections will always bring issues to the spotlight. I’m feeling confident feel that the voters here still want to stick with the government. We’re getting on with rebuilding jobs and putting people in jobs. It’s not just about coal mining, it’s about jobs and job security,” he said.
“People want to know they’re going to be able to pay their mortgage and electricity bill. Look at what we’ve achieved, what we’ve done in the past and on the ground, projects like the Scone Bypass, the Muswellbrook Bypass, Singleton Bypass, the work at stage one and two at Muswellbrook Hospital and commitment of $42 million for stage 3.
“Just look at what we’ve achieved in the past. What we say is what we do and really for the voters who are still undecided, we’re 18 months out from the next election. We made election promises in 2019, we said in this term of government we’d deliver on them so give us a chance to deliver on them over the full four years.
“It’s now 18 months before the next election, now is not the time to change the jockey mid-race. Give us the chance to prove what we’ve said. Now we’ve added a few more promises in this by-election so give us the opportunity to get on with it and in 18 months if we haven’t done what we’ve said we’d do, give us a message then.
Mr Barilaro said there were a number of different grants community groups could avail themselves of. He said he had a passion for supporting community groups and was happy for community groups to reach out to him personally for funding.
“Right now there’s a number of different grant programs that are up and running and I really encourage community groups to have a look at what’s available,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Often governments are criticised that nothing happens until there’s an election but these programs have been in place, our Regional Tourism funds, they’re funds that have been programmed including Resources for Regions since we got elected in 2011,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Our church groups, community groups, the unsung heroes that actually deliver the services that make a difference and I’d be more than happy for those community groups to come and see me post Saturday in relation to further funding. I have a passion for supporting community groups because they are the safety net, they’re there when governments aren’t there”, he said.
“We’ve made commitments in this election, we’ve got community groups that have reached out like the Aberdeen Sport and Recreation club for electrical upgrades. They sought support from the government and we’re in a position to do so. That’s what happens when you have strong economic management.”
“Dave Layzell, well I couldn’t have asked for a better candidate, someone who’s got hunger, a bit of mongrel, more importantly, he’s prepared to speak his mind, even against government position on the issues and he’s already been out there engaging, bringing those issues already to the fore and we’ve been able to resolve some of those issues during this campaign.
“By-elections will always put a spotlight on those outstanding issues and as Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, I take the issues seriously. Regardless of what happens tomorrow, I’m still in my job come Sunday and I’ve made commitments to this community that I will honour and will continue to honour as we progress.
“When you want to judge governments, you should have a look at the standard that we set, how we acted quickly on the issues of the former member. In this environment, it shows clearly we’re a government that’s prepared to set a standard even if it meant going to a minority government.
“Look at our track record of delivery and again I’m asking the voters to judge us on that.”
Mr Layzell said he was proud to stand as the candidate for the NSW Nationals in the Upper Hunter by-election and proud to be a resident of the Upper Hunter, a region he says has a bright future.
“I’m proud of my region. It’s a region with many industries and in this by-election, we’ve shown NSW and all of Australia the great industries we have here in the Upper Hunter. We’re an economic powerhouse,” Mr Layzell said.
“Our coal mining, our agriculture, our horse studs, our vineyards, our tourism industries, all these industries employ people. There’s a bright future for the Upper Hunter. We have a positive vision for the Upper Hunter for it to continue to be a great place to work, a great place to live and raise a family,” he said.
Voters go to the polls from 8 am tomorrow. With 13 candidates, this hotly contested seat will see preferences have a major impact on the final result. The by-election was triggered after the departure of disgraced MP Michael Johnsen.
For more information on where candidates stand: Voting 101: Upper Hunter by-election.