Member for Orange Phil Donato and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has been accused of running a by-election campaign based on “smears and lies”.
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Mr Donato says he has seen evidence that a number of the state’s regional Local Area Commands (LACs) will be merged under planned re-engineering of the NSW Police Force.
NSW Police Minister and Member for Dubbo Troy Grant made the “smears and lies” claim earlier last week in the wake of the Nationals holding the Cootamundra and Murray seats in by-elections.
National Party candidate for Cootamundra Steph Cooke won the by-election from Country Labor’s Charlie Sheahan with Shooters candidate Matthew Stadtmiller finishing third on first preferences votes.
“While every electorate is different, the Shooters and Fishers campaign in Cootamundra was disgraceful and made up of smears and lies, but people are starting to see through those,” Mr Grant said.
The comment was refuted by Mr Donato, who said the re-engineering process will see mergers between the Cootamundra and Wagga Local Area Commands, as well as Dubbo and Mudgee, and Canobolas and Lachlan.
“There were no smears or lies on my behalf. I’ve seen evidence that some police and administration staff won’t have jobs,” Mr Donato said.
“It will be a case of having more ground to cover, with less leadership and supervision as senior officers will be the main ones affected.
“Talking about my patch, with Canobolas and Lachlan, you have Canobolas centred around Orange while Lachlan stretches to Peak Hill and Lake Cargelligo.
“It flies in the face of the Bradshaw Report, which recommended local police on the ground to promote engagement with the local communities.”
Mr Donato conceded it was always going to be a battle to unseat the Nationals but said the Shooters’ Party has given regional voters another option and is holding the major parties accountable.
Mr Donato’s party ran candidates in both polls over the weekend with Matthew Stadtmiller in Cootamundra and Helen Dalton in Murray.
However, swings of about 20 and 15 per cent respectively in those seats weren’t enough to pry them from the Nationals.
“Even though we didn’t win Cootamundra and Murray on Saturday, we were pleased with the swings against the National Party,” Mr Donato said.
“We have taken those seats from being safe seats to marginal, and hopefully those communities can reap the benefits from that.”
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