OUR SAY: Nationals' power vacuum exposed in electricity sell-off debate

THE NSW Nationals find themselves in an impossible position regarding the proposed sale of the state’s electricity infrastructure.

The proposal will go to a joint party room meetings on Tuesday, but the Nationals know they are seriously outnumbered by their Liberal colleagues.

So no matter how hard they fight to keep the poles and wires in public hands, if Premier Mike Baird wants to proceed with a full sale there is nothing they can do about it.

That leaves Nationals MPs with the option of creating a potentially damaging split within the Coalition, or appearing weak in the eyes of their voters. Neither is an appealing option, you would think.

This may well be a case of the Coalition’s state election victory in 2011 being more comprehensive than even the Nationals would have liked.

The reality is, the Liberals have enough MPs in parliament to govern in their own right.

They have been happy to pay lip service to the Nationals for the past three years but now, when it has come to the crunch on a key policy area, the Liberals know there is no real need to negotiate.

They might argue that the whole state will benefit from the revenue to come from the sale of the poles and wires, but regional and rural communities - the Nationals’ heartland - are likely to bear a greater burden than city voters.

A call to put this issue to a referendum is doomed to fail because Liberals have the numbers to go ahead with the full sale even without the support of the Nationals. There is no way they will seek to muddy the waters further by putting their proposal to the people.

The Nationals have always been known as the junior Coalition partner. Now, sadly, we’re seeing just how junior they are.

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