The Nationals are urging country voters not to back a resurgent ALP, labelling the party as “enemies” of regional NSW.
Premier Mike Baird and his deputy Troy Grant were in Dubbo on Sunday to officially launch the Nationals’ campaign for the March 28 election.
Mr Grant pointed to Labor’s “neglect” of rural NSW when it was last in power.
“Let me be clear: Labor is the enemy of regional NSW and the enemy is at our gates,” Mr Grant, who is also Nationals leader, told the launch.
The Nats won an impressive 18 of the 20 seats they contested at the 2011 election but are now focused on a far more defensive campaign amid an expected statewide swing against the coalitions.
Community fears over the government’s power privatisation plans and anti-coal seam gas sentiment are proving to be the two biggest challenges for sitting National MPs.
Mr Grant said his party had a strong record on the poles and wires plan, pointing to the fact that they successfully lobbied the government to keep Essential Energy, the major rural and regional electricity distributor, in public hands.
“Essential Energy will remain 100 per cent in public hands – that is not negotiable,” he said.
A major battleground for the Nationals will be on the state’s North Coast, where Labor leader Luke Foley has already visited and made big ticket spending promises.
Tweed, Ballina and Lismore are all held by the Nationals on margins of more than 20 per cent but are at risk of falling to Labor.
Mr Foley has also promised a complete CSG ban on the North Coast, highlighting just how crucial the issue could be in deciding those seats.
Monaro, in the state’s south, is another key seat considering it’s been won by the governing party in 25 of the past 28 elections.
Nationals MP John Barilaro holds Monaro on a two per cent margin and could easily lose it to Labor’s Steve Whan, who is back to reclaim his old seat.
Mr Foley focused on law and order on Sunday, promising to employ an extra 480 police officers in his first term.
He stressed he’d pay for the extra staff without leasing the state’s poles and wires.
Meanwhile, the Greens launched their campaign in Sydney with an ambitious package of laws designed to stamp out corruption and boost social housing.