IT’S LIKE THIS: Senator Fiona Nash and Roads Minister Duncan Gay in earnest discussion at the cocktail function opening the Nationals annual conference in Bowral on Friday night. Photos: Roy Truscott, Southern Highland News. HUME MP Alby Schultz claims the Nationals are negotiating with the Labor Party at the highest levels to secure preferences in the seat at the next election. Mr Schultz made the allegation on Friday as the Nationals began their three-day annual general conference in Bowral.
“I am reliably informed that they are in dialogue with senior members of the Labor Party in regard to preferences in Hume,” he told the Post.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all… The bottom line is they are treating the people of Hume like absolute fools. They are highly intelligent people and will make their own decision on polling day.”
But Senator Fiona Nash, touted as a possible Nationals candidate, knew nothing of this yesterday. The Labor Party could not be reached for a response.
Goulburn Labor Party president Roger Lucas said if discussions were occurring, these were at national, not local level.
“I’m not aware of them but if they are talking at Canberra level, it wouldn’t surprise me because when you look at how ineffective Mr Schultz is in Hume, why wouldn’t we talk to the Nats?” he said.
Mr Schultz says he has faith in his sources. He pointed out it wouldn’t be the first time the Nationals had relied on Labor preferences in three-cornered contests.
“They have history,” Mr Schultz said.
He accused the party of being very much in election mode through ads promoting Burrinjuck MP Katrina Hodgkinson and Senator Nash on Prime TV.
But in not opening pre-selection for Hume, the Nationals were treating people “like dills,” Mr Schultz said. He claimed they only really had one candidate in mind – Senator Nash.
“More importantly, they are treating the other alleged nine candidates badly, because they are virtually saying, ‘don’t waste your time running,’” Mr Schultz claimed.
Speaking from the conference yesterday, Senator Nash said she still hadn’t decided to contest Hume.
She was still awaiting a Coalition agreement to be signed, outlining rules of engagement in Liberal seats where the member was retiring. Senator Nash said she was unaware of any discussions with the Labor Party but told the Post she wouldn’t be fazed by such an arrangement.
“In any election campaign there are always discussions around preferences and I’d expect that to happen if we did decide to run,” she said.
“It would not bother me. In a lot of seats we don’t get in on primaries.”
In regard to Mr Schultz’s shot that her party was treating people “like fools,” Senator Nash said he was entitled to his view. But ultimately, 500 rank and file members would decide the candidate.
“With the greatest respect to our coalition friends, Alby has no idea what the Nationals are doing in Hume.”
Meantime, the Goulburn Labor Party says it has a “very worthy” candidate in mind for Hume. More in Wednesday’s Goulburn Post.
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