Nats will go it alone for NSW election
THE NSW Nationals will run their own election campaign and have distinct policies that set them apart - and even at odds - with their Liberal Coalition partners in a tactical move by Leader John Barilaro.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Telegraph, the Deputy Premier said the Nationals remained in a "united coalition" with Premier Gladys Berejiklian but needed to bolster their own identity if they were to ward off the threat of minor parties eating into their rural voter base.
"We'll have a number of key policy positions and platforms that will be National Party policy, which in some cases contradict messaging that's happening in the city or in Sydney," he said.
"Other times it could be in clear contrast to Liberal Party ideology.
"I think for our communities they'll know clearly the Nationals are a stand-alone party that's focused on regional NSW with policies that underpin this."
This election will be the first time The Nationals release a policy document entirely separate from the Coalition.
"All our branding will definitely be National Party and our narrative will be very strong and very different in the regions."
The Nationals are under pressure as they hold the majority of the Berejiklian government's most marginal seats such as Barwon, Lismore, Coffs Harbour and Tweed.
Mr Barilaro said one example of why he needed to differentiate messaging was that Sydney voters were concerned about rising migration levels and the "burden" of building projects while people in the regions were desperate to grow their population and new infrastructure.
"Nothing will divide us but there is no question in these times we need our own identity to shine …. we're under attack by Shooters (Fishers and Farmers Party), One Nation and independents, and we need to make sure everything we've achieved in regional NSW over the past eight years is accredited to the National Party," he said.
Mr Barilaro acknowledged there had been internal rumblings in the National Party over federal Liberal issues impacting the brand.
"There is no question there's a lot of noise in party ranks … questioning why would we tie ourselves to what may be seen as an anchor (the Liberals) and, for me as party leader, one of the things I say is 'we only succeed when we are in coalition'.
"The Coalition is strong in NSW."