The NSW coalition brought out its heavy artillery and Orange’s MP returned fire on Wednesday when Premier Gladys Berejiklian visited Orange in a bid to help the Nationals win back the seat from Phil Donato at the March 23 election.
Ms Berejiklian made her first visit to the city as Premier to show her support for Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton, and to dangle a carrot to voters in the form of a $25-million sporting complex which will be built on the condition Mrs Hazelton is elected, ousting Shooters Fishers and Farmers incumbent Mr Donato.
“I’m not going to be shy about that because I really want Orange to come back to the government,” Ms Berejiklian said.
It’s something that if I’m elected and the government is in government still after March 23 I will hold them to account.
“Do they [Orange residents] want a member from the Shooters who supports giving guns to 10-year-olds, or do they want Kate Hazelton, a local born and bred, who’s raised her family here, whose family have been part of this community for five generations, who will be a strong voice in government?”
Ms Berejiklian said she came to Orange “humbled” by the 2016 byelection loss, and since then the government has increased investment in regional communities.
“Deputy Premier [John Barilaro], badgered the heck out of me and the treasurer and as a result literally he’s got hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of grant funding in different categories,” she said.
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“I don’t blame the community for looking at what Dubbo’s received and what Bathurst has received, but a voice in government will make sure that Kate speaks up, she tells the Deputy Premier and me exactly what she needs, something unfortunately the current local member hasn’t done.
“I don’t think he’s ever requested to meet with me or speak with me, I notice that he’s turned up today, but it’s the first time he’s turned up to meet me in all the times he’s been in parliament.”
Mr Donato called the sporting precinct’s conditional funding a “threat” and said he supported Orange City Council’s plans for the sports facility for the past two years.
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“That’s all it is, it’s a threat, and the fact that she’s conceded that Bathurst and Dubbo have been getting more money that Orange it just goes to show the hypocrisy of the Premier in punishing the people of Orange for exercising their democratic right to elect someone who wasn’t a member of the government,” he said.
“This would be a great project for Orange, and it’s something that if I’m elected and the government is in government still after March 23 I will hold them to account on every single promise and commitment they have made,” Mr Donato said.