THE Nationals new leaders have flown to Orange today to understand “what went wrong” in this month’s by-election.
The party’s fresh leader, John Barilaro, and his deputy, Niall Blair, said their mission was to listen and respond to the community which turfed out its party last week, opting to vote in Shooters, Fisher and Farmers Party candidate Philip Donato.
The Nationals candidate, Scott Barrett, was the first National to lose the seat of Orange in 70 years. He lost by just 50 votes.
“The message sent from the by-election was to the government (not to Scott Barrett) on a number of policy issues and we’re here to build that trust back. We’re here to engage, listen and understand what went wrong,” Mr Barilaro said.
“We want to hear where the community believe government plays a role and where they believe government doesn’t play a role.”
Mr Barilaro said local government mergers and greyhound racing weren’t the only issues at play which led to Mr Donato’s narrow win.
“Local government mergers and amalgamations have been a big issue, I’m not going to pretend they weren’t. But there are different issues in different parts of the electorate which need addressing which is why this will be our first, not our final trip to Orange.”
The pair wouldn’t be venturing to the Cabonne Council area on this trip. Residents there are extremely hostile to the proposition of merging with Orange and Blayney Councils.
Mr Blair, who is the Primary Industries Minister, said he would continue to visit the Central West regularly to meet with his Orange-based department.
“There are challenges and John and I are up for them,” Mr Blair said.