Nationals candidate for Orange Kate Hazelton claimed member for Orange Phil Donato was “misleading” his electorate by planning to refer Premier Gladys Berejiklian to the NSW Electoral Commission.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Mr Donato said he would refer the Premier’s conditional pledge to build a $25 million sports stadium in the city for investigation, believing it contravened section 209 the NSW Electoral Act of 2017.
In her response on Friday, Mrs Hazelton said that legislation did “not apply in relation to a declaration of public policy or a promise of public action”.
Do the Shooters have a plan to fund and build sports infrastructure in Orange or is this just another distraction tactic?Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton
“The Shooters candidate is stooping very low if he plans to mislead the public by claiming that this is a matter for the electoral commission,” Mrs Hazelton said.
“The Shooters candidate is trying to distract the people of Orange from the real issue at hand - that the Shooters party is incapable of delivering a single thing for Orange.
“Do the Shooters have a plan to fund and build sports infrastructure in Orange or is this just another distraction tactic?”
On Wednesday Mrs Hazelton said she would be “proud” to deliver the funding "should I be elected to parliament”, and she reaffirmed that sentiment on Friday.
VIDEO: What the Premier said in Orange on Wednesday …
“The Orange community have a real opportunity in front of them in the upcoming state election; to get more from the state government and see the same level of investment as Dubbo and Bathurst,” she said.
The issue arose during a visit to Orange by Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday when she announced her government, if re-elected next month, would fund $25 million towards a long-awaited purpose-built sporting precinct at an Orange City Council-developed block of land adjacent to the Northern Distributor Road.
The Premier said the funds would only be forthcoming should Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton topple incumbent Mr Donato in the March 23 poll.
“This will only happen if Kate’s the member … we want to make sure Orange gets its fair share,” Ms Berejiklian said.
This led Mr Donato to labeled the pledge, “a blackmail and a bribe” on Thursday.
“It seems clear to me the Premier breached section 209 on electoral bribery, treating and selling of votes in Orange on Wednesday,” Mr Donato said.
That section of the Act says “a person must not, in order to influence or affect any person’s election conduct, give or confer, or promise or offer to give or confer, any property or any other benefit of any kind to the person or any other person”.
It also says “a person must not ask for, receive or obtain, or; offer to ask for, receive or obtain, or; or agree to ask for, receive or obtain, any property or any other benefit of any kind, whether for the person or any other person, on an understanding that the person’s election conduct will be in any manner influenced or affected”.
The penalties for these offences can be up to three years imprisonment.
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NSW Upper House parliamentarian Robert Borsak said the Premier had “essentially threatened the people of Orange: if you don’t vote for us, we will withhold funding paid for by your taxes”.
“This is illegal in a democracy for good reasons. It’s what most people would regard as bribery and corruption, worthy of a banana republic,” Mr Borsak said.
“We will write a formal letter to the NSW Electoral Commissioner reporting what we see as an illegal act.
VIDEO: What Mr Donato said on Wednesday …
“This is not an action we take lightly. We believe there’s been a serious breach of the Electoral Act.”
The strategy of making election promises conditioned upon a candidate's success at the ballot box was used extensively by former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman ahead of the 2015 state election.
The tactic failed to save the Newman government, which suffered a 30 seat-rout including Mr Newman's own seat and was booted from power after a single term.
During her Friday statement, Mrs Hazelton also hit out at Mr Donato and the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party after Robert Brown said he was blindsided by the election of Mark Banasiak to the number one position on the party’s ticket for of the NSW Legislative Council.
Brett Cooke, a senior electorate officer for member for Orange Phil Donato, was elected in the number two position for the party’s ticket on Tuesday.
“If he wasn’t so busy knifing his parliamentary colleague in the back so his staff member could get a new job, he would have had time to read the whole of Section 209,” she said despite the Nationals asking their own candidate, Yvette Quinn to resign.
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