FIXING youth unemployment, drug rehab services, and youth mental health support will be woven into the fabric of the NSW Nationals’ 2019 election campaign – with Deputy Premier singling out these issues as a huge impediment to regional prosperity.
“We need to protect the next generation,” the party leader told the state conference at Cowra.
“That’s been the message loud and clear as we travel around.
“Term one of government we had to make some tough decisions, get the budget under control.
“Term two we had a reform agenda.
“Term three is about the people. We have heard that loud and clear.”
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He said the wellbeing of communities in regional areas, both for him personally and the party whole, would be the focus of the 2019 campaign.
“I will be imploring our MPs to go out and meet their communities and see what services exist and what is needed. That is the priority. My priority.”
Youth and renewal a candidate issue too
Youth and renewal is also on the party’s mind as it readies to turn the final bend into the 2019 state election, with Mr Barilaro acknowledging the party hadn’t approached these values well in the past.
Sensationally, 21-year-old mental health worker Yvette Quinn was preselected to try wrest Orange back from the Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers a couple of weeks ago.
All up, more than a third of the seats won by the NSW Nationals at the 2015 election will have different candidates in 2019: Orange was lost in 2016, Cootamundra, and Murray had byelection wins in 2017, and the members for Coffs Harbour, Barwon, Lismore will be retiring before the election.
Mr Barilaro said it was something that could work int he party’s favour.
“We keep talking 20 years, 30 years into the future. That’s not good enough,” he said.
“Yes Steph (Cooke) and Austin (Evans) are fresh but in a way the byelections (in Murray and Cootamundra) were a godsend because we got the chance to refresh then, rather than facing five or six new candidates at the polls in 2019.
“They’ve had 18 months to build a brand. And renewal is good for our party. It is needed.”