Seniors living in Orange and surrounding areas could benefit from a $250 Regional Seniors Transport Card that was announced by the Nationals this week.
However, Independent MP Jeremy Buckingham has described a letter sent out by Nationals candidates to promote the card as a bribe.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced the card this week and said it would be a debit card that seniors could use to pay for petrol, trips with participating taxis, pre-booked TrainLink trains and coach services.
The Nationals candidate for Orange Kate Hazelton said the card would be released in January 2020 regardless of whether she is elected to government.
We have brought this initiative because we realise the people in the city have the advantages that the people in the country don't have.Candidate for Orange Kate Hazelton
"It means our seniors out here in the bush can access transport," Mrs Hazelton said.
"It means they can go to specific providers for fuel, it can also be used for taxi rides as well."
Mrs Hazelton also hit back at Mr Buckinhham's statement that the letters circulated across numerous electorates was a breach of section 209 of the NSW Electoral Act 2017 pertaining to electoral bribery.
Mr Buckinham has written to the NSW Election Commission about the letters, which were headlined "Vote 1 The Nationals to get your Regional Seniors Transport Card" and included a Nationals branded credit card with $250 glued to the letter.
"Linking the act of voting for the Nationals so directly to a promise of monetary reward is outrageous. The credit card is even branded as if the money will come from the National Party.
“These are desperate and underhanded tactics, targeted at vulnerable people who may not know better. That’s why this type of activity is prohibited by the law," he said.
However, Mrs Hazelton said the cards were just about giving country people what city people already have access to.
"The people in the city automatically get a rebate for transport, now out in the country we don't get that and I really believe that our people deserve that, it's definitely not a bribe," she said.
"We have brought this initiative because we realise the people in the city have the advantages that the people in the country don't have.
"$250, that's quite a bit of fuel and taxi rides around the town,
"The equivalent is more or less what our city people get as well, in terms that they get a rebate on their train or bus tickets."
CSU's Associate Professor of Political Science Dominic O'Sullivan said the Nationals were worried about the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, especially in seats like Orange.
"The government is still suffering from the consequences of merging local councils and the greyhound racing ban. It has left a negative perception among voters," Professor O'Sullivan said.
"Obviously, the Nationals are trying to make themselves relevant to regional and rural people."
Political pundits are predicting a close competition in next month's election in regional areas, where the Nationals have a strong presence.
With further distances to travel, country seniors rely more heavily on their cars and that means more fuel and more money.Deputy Premier John Barilaro
The party holds 16 electorates in the NSW Lower House, including Bathurst and Dubbo in the Central West, and seven seats in the Upper House.
The Nationals believe their $250 transport card will benefit 400,000 seniors and aged pensioners in regional NSW.
The party has already announced a new annual $200 energy rebate for self-funded retirees in regional NSW.
Mr Barilaro said travel is a significant household cost faced by those living across rural and regional NSW.
“With further distances to travel, country seniors rely more heavily on their cars and that means more fuel and more money,” he said.
The card will be renewable on an annual basis for two years.
DO YOU WANT MORE ORANGE NEWS?
- Receive our free newsletters delivered to your inbox, as well as breaking news alerts. Sign up below ...