Farmers freak as rural seats disappear

As the commission begins eyeing off the next seat to go, The Nationals are urging rural voters, regardless of their politics, to voice their concerns about any possible reduction to the number of country MPs.

The Nationals federal director, Brad Henderson, said the party’s executive in Canberra is finalising its own submission, due next Thursday, but will be making the case to retain regional seats which already cover huge expanses.

“We don’t want to see the abolition of another rural seat,” Mr Henderson said.

“If a seat must go, it should be from one of the metropolitan areas of Newcastle, Sydney or Wollongong.

“There are many seats in those areas well under their quota, and they are also areas already well represented in parliament.

“Country people deserve to be able to access a local member with some relative ease.

“The bigger these electorates come, the more difficult it becomes for rural MPs to service their regions and for regional people to access their MPs.”

The Nationals have been particularly critical of the current voting formula for some time, with policy debates on this issue at most annual conferences.

Nationals MP for the newly defined seat of Parkes, Mark Coulton, represents much of the old Gwydir electorate which he fought hard to try and retain.

He said it sounds as though his electorate will be getting bigger under the redistribution.

He is nervous about the prospect of one less voice in country areas – “forget about the party it belongs to” – if the commission looks to scrap another rural seat.

“Western NSW took the pain last time,” Mr Coulton said.

“Country MPs are prepared to cover a fair bit of territory, but I already spend 30 to 40 hours a week just travelling to and from towns in my electorate along the Newell Highway.

“We don’t need another situation where half of NSW is lumped into one seat, as was proposed last time.”

* Written submissions must be lodged with the redistribution committee by 6pm next Friday to be considered.

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