DEPUTY Premier Troy Grant has rejected an invitation to debate Labor’s Luke Foley in Molong about the proposed amalgamation of Orange, Cabonne and Blayney councils, saying he could not spend five minutes with the opposition leader.
Mr Foley challenged Mr Grant to the debate during question time on Thursday.
Mr Grant referred to an earlier comment when he said he would rather stick a fork in his eyeball than “hop into bed” with The Greens on the greyhound issue.
“I am on the public record indicating what I would do with a fork and an eyeball with respect to self-inflicted injuries on a different occasion, I am not quite sure what analogy I would use in the context of spending time with the Leader of the Opposition,” he said.
Mr Grant went on to point out two councils in his constituency, Dubbo and Wellington, merged as part of the Fit for the Future process and there had been fears about job losses in Wellington.
“After the merged entity began to operate, it was discovered that Wellington had 20 job vacancies,” he said.
“Why was that the case? Prior to amalgamation, the Wellington Council had been struggling to recruit people because [it] could not offer professional opportunities in line with the council's functions.”
Mr Grant said the merger had increased the number of development applications submitted and repaired the Wellington pool for the country championships.
He also reiterated the letters he received from residents in Eugowra and Canowindra when he was their state MP, which asked for amalgamation.
Mr Foley said the community was resolute in its opposition to the merger.
“If Troy Grant is so steadfast in his belief that forced council mergers are a good idea, he’ll have no issue arguing the point in a public debate in Molong,” he said.
Amalgamation No Thank You (ANTY) spokeswoman Marj Bollinger believed Mr Grant had abandoned political etiquette in refusing the opportunity.
She said Eugowra and Canowindra residents indeed supported amalgamation, but not with Orange.
“Those residents would prefer to go with Forbes and Cowra – I can guarantee that because most have come on board with the ANTY group, they’re supporting the push to stand alone at this point in time,” she said.
“Should that occur, there will be some activity for some boundary changes.”