Nats in a pickle over Page

WANTED: One National Party candidate for Page. The successful candidate must be willing to work long, thankless hours for no pay, hopefully followed by more long, thankless hours for lots of pay. Experience or party membership not required.

With only days to go until the close of preselection nominations, and only one confirmed candidate in the bag, the National Party has thrown a wide net in its search for a potential future Member for Page, opening the race to people who are not members of the party and running newspaper advertisements calling for candidates.

The party today has an advertisement in Grafton's Daily Examiner and will this week run an ad in The Northern Star calling for people interested in challenging Labor's Janelle Saffin for the marginal seat named after one of the Nationals' founders.

As of yesterday, only Clunes businessman Kevin Hogan had put his hand up. The other potential runner, Stuart George, yesterday confirmed he had decided against standing for preselection.

Page Nationals chairman Simon Kinny yesterday conceded there was 'not as much interest' within the party membership for this preselection as there had been for the 2007 preselection, which followed Nationals MP Ian Causley's retirement.

“You could say it's just everyone saying Kevin's doing it, I won't have a chance against him so I won't stand, or they could be saying the electoral tide's running the wrong way and I just don't want to do it,” Dr Kinny said. “I don't know what it is at this point in time. It's a bit puzzling.”

All the more puzzling because The Nationals would enter next year's election with a fighting chance in Page. Sitting Labor MP Janelle Saffin won the seat with a slender 1.67 per cent margin in the 2007 election. That margin would likely have been eroded before the campaign for the next election even began, after the Australian Electoral Commission announced plans to expand Page's boundary west past Drake, bringing more Nationals heartland voters into the electorate.

Dr Kinny denied the party was doing anything unusual in opening the preselection to non-members, pointing to high profile Riverina MP Kay Hull, who had not been a member of the party before standing for the party in 1998.

Dr Kinny said the party's local membership might be also prepared to accept an outside candidate, nominated by head office, provided they were prepared to submit to an open preselection ballot.

If no more quality candidates have nominated for preselection by the close of nominations on Friday, the party will consider extending the nomination period another week.

WOULD YOU MAKE A GOOD FEDERAL MP? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948

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