Local National Party representatives have shrugged off the weekend’s state by-election results that saw two formerly safe seats turn marginal.
Following the shock mid-term resignations of Adrian Piccoli and Katrina Hodgkinson, by-elections were held in the seats of Cootamundra and Murray, and while the Nationals held onto both of the seat, both saw significant drops in voter support.
In Cootamundra, Nationals candidate Steph Cooke polled more than 45 per cent of the primary vote, although there was a downward swing of almost 20 per cent away from the party. In Murray, Austin Evans won the seat, but recorded a 15 per cent swing against the party.
Locally, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Young Nationals vice chair Michael Hansen have agreed with deputy premier John Barilaro in calling the results par for the course of an elected government.
Mr Marshall even went as far as saying “the results were better than expected.”
“By-elections will always go against the government of the day, that's not to say you just dismiss it and say there aren't any issues, there are always issues but when you've got members that've been there for a considerable amount of time you often see big swings, and often seats change hands when you lose a long standing member,” he said.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, although his media man and Young Nats vice chair Mr Hansen was manning a booth in the Cootamundra town of Young, and said there was no ill feeling on the ground towards the party.
“By-elections are a completely different kettle of fish – swings are very standard against the government of the day,” Mr Hansen said.
“It didn’t seem like the voters were out to get us or to send us a message – don’t get me wrong if we had not had such big margins we probably would have lost those seats – but the Put Nats Last message from the other parties didn’t seem to resonate with the voters.
“It’s not a wake up to the Nationals brand, just those two seats. Never has there been more money spent in regional NSW than there is now – if it wasn’t for the Nats regional people would have got nothing.”
The swings away from the traditional country party were nowhere near the scale seen in Orange last year, where the Nationals not only lost the seat, but former leader Troy Grant stepped down soon after.
State opposition leader Luke Foley said the results showed the tides are turning against the coalition.
“Thumping swings against the Nationals, against the government in those safe country electorates," Mr Foley said.
"This shows there is a real mood for change amongst people right across NSW, and we will be working very hard over the next 18 months to earn the confidence of the people as we head to the next state election.”