The control of the New South Wales Parliament after March 23 might rest on the shoulders of a right-wing crossbench in the Upper House.
- Twenty-one seats are up for grabs in the Upper House
- Former Labor leader Mark Latham has a full ticket of One Nation candidates running
- Regional and western Sydney are the target areas for right-wing minor parties
In the Legislative Council, 21 seats are up for grabs and the Berejiklian Government isn’t expected to win more than eight, something that could help the minor parties play a bigger role in passing legislation during the next parliamentary term.
Christian Democrat Reverend Fred Nile has for many years wielded influence, but some new names are expected to be added.
Former federal Labor leader turned One Nation candidate Mark Latham is marshalling a major campaign, along with Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, Senator Cory Bernardi’s party the Australian Conservatives and a younger face for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
These groups are hoping to energise a lot of support from regional NSW and western Sydney.
Mr Latham has spent the past couple of weeks touring the state and believes there’s a clear issue on the minds of voters.
“I was down in southern NSW just last week through the Murrumbidgee irrigation area and the three big issues were water, water, water,” Mr Latham said.
“It strikes me as crazy that once NSW went into drought it didn’t have the flexibility to say NSW has got to keep more of its own water.”
One Nation, under Mr Latham, has a full ticket of 16 candidates, qualifying the party for above-the-line voting.
It is expected to easily win at least one and possibly two spots.
“My objective in the NSW Upper House, if I am fortunate enough to be elected, is to wake up some of the characters and make it a more activist chamber — pushing forward with policy agendas instead of just responding to [what] the government does,” Mr Latham said.
He has already struck preference deals with the Australian Conservatives, the Small Business Party, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.
A younger face for the Shooters and a push for a new look at gun laws
Last week the Shooters membership rolled its most senior parliamentarian, Robert Brown, in a push for generational change.
Thirty-seven year old Mark Banasiak is now top of their ticket and looks guaranteed a seat.
He said the Government had got its priorities wrong.
“We’ve got people in regional NSW that wake up every day … not knowing if they have access to safe drinking water, and all the Premier can muster lately is a $25-million bribe for a sports stadium,” Mr Banasiak said.
The Shooters are locked in a battle with the Government as it tries to win back the marginal seat of Orange, where last week Gladys Berejiklian promised a multi-million dollar stadium, if voters supported the Nationals candidate.
Mr Banasiak said he would be fair and reasonable if he ended up in a position of power, promising that he would not block government legislation.
But he said he would push for what he called “evidence-based” discussion, especially on gun laws.
He wants the removal of the ammunition bill that requires firearm dealers to record personal details of their customers, plus sporting shooters to be given easier access to silencers, or “suppressors” as they’re also known.
“Suppressors is one issue, it’s a WHS issue,” Mr Banasiak said.
“There exists legislation already that says recreational hunters are allowed to apply for it. The Government is dragging the chain on approving some of those applications, mainly based on emotion and we want to get rid of the ammo bill, it just creates a shopping list for criminals.”
Happy to do deals
A man happy to make deals is Senator Leyonhjelm as he shifts his attention to state politics.
“There are some things I simply won’t vote for — an increase in taxes or reduction in liberty are the two rules that I follow,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
“But there are lots of things that don’t offend those rules and I’ll do trade-offs, so in order to get my vote, I’ll do trade-offs, I call them Liberty offsets.”
He also believes he can work as a negotiator to keep the crossbench together.
“In the last parliament, I became a bit of focus, all the crossbenchers talk to me, so it can work out that way,” he said.
The last spot in the Upper House could be won with just 2 per cent of the vote.
Will it be a house of rigour or a house of ransom?
And while polling suggests support for the Christian Democrats is on the slide, the party’s Paul Green is confident of being returned.
He said a powerful conservative crossbench would be interesting.
“Sometimes that is really good because the scrutiny on bills needs to take time and other times there can be good reform, but others might play ransom politics with those decisions for their own priorities.”