This area covers ten electorates, stretching from two seats in the New England region down to Murray and Albury on the Victorian border.
It’s quite possibly the most interesting region in the election. On a two-party-preferred basis, not a single one of these seats is close to being marginal. But if you factor in the role of independents and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, a majority of this region could be in play.
I’m going to focus on six seats which could be in play, four of which were the subject of interesting by-elections in the last term.
This trend started with the 2016 Orange by-election, which was won by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party. The Shooters then did very well in 2017 by-elections in Murray and Cootamundra, without winning. The Liberal Party then lost the seat of Wagga Wagga to independent Joe McGirr in a 2018 by-election.
These seats are hard to predict: the Shooters are running across the region, but have no history of contesting lower house seats prior to those recent by-elections. It may be reasonable to assume they will poll well across the region, but that’s an assumption. It’s also very difficult to predict the performance of independents who have yet to face the voters, particularly when you lack a detailed knowledge of the local electorate. So in all likelihood many of these seats will stay in Nationals hands, but it’s worth covering them all, below the fold.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers won the seat of Orange at a 2016 by-election, thanks to a 34% primary vote swing against the Nationals. Philip Donato polled 24% of the primary vote and won thanks to preferences from Labor and a number of independents. Donato defeated the Nationals candidate by only 84 votes on the final count, so is by no means safe. He will be looking to consolidate the anti-Nationals primary vote to strengthen his position.
Independent MP Joe McGirr won the seat of Wagga Wagga off the Liberal Party at a 2018 by-election. The primary vote was close to a three-way tie between McGirr, Liberal and Labor each polling roughly one-quarter of the vote. McGirr ended up winning the two-candidate-preferred count easily, with 59.6%. There was controversy about the absence of a Nationals candidate in the seat, with some Nationals members backing McGirr. The Nats are running in 2019, which adds an additional complication.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers also came close to winning the seat of Murray in the state’s south-western corner at a 2017 by-election. The Nationals’ Austin Evans held on with 53.3% of the two-candidate-preferred vote, after a 15% primary vote swing. While the Shooters will likely have a tougher time at the general election, they could still be a threat here.
The Nationals suffered a 20% swing at the 2017 Cootamundra by-election, but held on after the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate was knocked out in third place. The support for the Shooters won’t have gone away, and would likely require a relatively small swing to give them a chance of winning the seat.
While it is difficult to predict which other seats could come into play, there has been a lot of chatter around the seat of Barwon, which covers a vaste swathe of north-western New South Wales, including Broken Hill. Nationals MP Kevin Humphries is retiring after twelve years in the job. The seat is being contested by Broken Hill mayor Darriea Turley for Labor, but there has also been talk about the Shooters having a shot. This will be worth watching.
The electorate of Dubbo was held by a succession of two independents from 1999 until 2011. Sitting Nationals MP Troy Grant (a former deputy premier) is retiring, and independent candidate Mathew Dickerson appears to be running a serious campaign. Another seat to watch.