2 February 2023

Dr Joe warns of a 'tough election' as the Nats, Libs and Greens set their sights on his seat

| Chris Roe
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Dr Joe and Ms Benjamin

Dr McGirr congratulated Adrianna Benjamin on her preselection for the Nationals. Photo: Supplied.

Wagga Wagga’s Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr is gearing up for a busy start to the new year as he prepares to defend his seat in the NSW State Election on Saturday 25 March.

“I think it’s going to be quite a tough election. It’s going to be quite tight across the state and tough locally,” he said.

“I think both the Nationals and the Liberals want to win the seat and my view is that that’s good, because it’s good to have the focus on the needs of the electorate.”

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Things are shaping up in the opposing corners as the Greens have confirmed that Ray Goodlass will again be contesting the seat for the party and the NSW Coalition is preparing to field both National and Liberal Party contenders.

The Wagga Liberal Party branch voted in Rob Sinclair as the new branch president last week and have opened nominations for a Wagga candidate.

“It’s an odd decision, particularly given the well publicised issues that the Liberal Party has in the seat,” said Wagga based Nationals MLC Wes Fang.

“I’m just unsure of the strategy given that it will take away resources from other campaigns that the Liberal Party needs to win for us to retain government.”

Adrianna Benjamin

Nationals contender Adrianna Benjamin with Federal MP Michael McCormack. Photo: Supplied.

The Nationals unveiled their candidate on the weekend preselecting former Tumut councillor and businesswoman Andrianna Benjamin.

The 33-year-old is the co-CEO of HealthKlinix Australia and served on the Snowy Valleys Council from 2017 to 2021.

“Through my time on council I really formed a really great relationship with the whole community and a real love for it and the region,” Ms Benjamin said.

“I’ve lived in the area for almost all my life and I’m really keen to get out there and listen to the community.”

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Despite being from outside the electorate’s largest city, Ms Benjamin says her work with healthcare providers takes her right across the region.

“I’m flying in and out of Wagga all the time and I do have a really good network of people I work with in the medical sector,” she explained.

“I think it’s all about getting to know everyone across the electorate. I’m really out there to listen.”

Mr Fang described her as a well regarded “go-getter” and a “formidable candidate” who would connect with the broader Wagga electorate.

“The Tumut community knows her well and I think that that is a testament to the work she did as a councillor,” he said.

“I think that the Nats are very good at providing people like her a platform to get out and about and show the community how strong an advocate she can be in the future.”

Wes Fang

Nationals MLC Wes Fang says Ms Benjamin will be a serious contender. Photo: Supplied.

On the other side of the house, previous Country Labor candidate and Wagga City Councillor Dan Hayes says his party will wait until the new year to make any announcements.

“We’re gonna let people enjoy their Christmas and the new year,” he said, adding that the Liberal party still needed to atone for the sins of the past.

“We still need the Liberal Party to apologise for Daryl Maguire. It’s an expectation from the community and until that happens, I think they should be relegated pretty low down into people’s votes.”

While Mr Fang doesn’t feel an apology is necessary, he agrees that Maguire’s ghost will haunt the party.

“I think the best way they can acknowledge that is the way that they did it in 2019, which is to not run,” he stated.

After Dr McGirr claimed the seat in the 2018 by-election, the Liberal Party agreed to steer clear of the 2019 poll and Dr McGirr went on to defeat National’s candidate McKenna Powell in a landslide.

Dr Joe Mcgirr

Wagga’s Independent MP Dr Joe McGirr says voters have moved on from the Daryl McGuire scandal. Photo: NSW Parliament.

“I think they feel that it’s their seat rather than a National Party seat,” said Dr McGirr of the Liberal’s proposed return, adding that he felt voters had moved on from the past.

“It is possible that there will be further information from ICAC in the course of the campaign, but I actually think people in the electorate are interested in issues right now.

“Overall, my view is the more choice voters have, the more interest in the election, the better for the electorate.”

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