14 June 2024

Nationals converge on Wagga Wagga ahead of this weekend’s state conference

| Chris Roe
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The Nationals’ deputy leader Perin Davey, leader David Littleproud, Wagga branch president Mackenna Powell, NSW leader Dugald Saunders, NSW MLC Wes Fang and Member for Riverina Michael McCormack. Photo: Chris Roe.

As Nationals leader David Littleproud fronted the media on a freezing Thursday (13 June) in Wagga, the Queensland MP may have questioned the decision to launch the party’s state conference in southern NSW.

“My teeth are literally chattering,” a shivering Mr Littleproud said as he and a handful of state and federal members huddled outside Member for Riverina Michael McCormack’s office overlooking the lagoon.

“It’s great to be at a National Party conference, albeit a little cooler than what I felt when I left Queensland this morning!”

Despite the cold, Nationals’ Wagga branch president Mackenna Powell extended a warm welcome to the 280 delegates who will attend the conference in Wagga over the weekend.

“The NSW Nationals support the regions and we always hold our state conference in a regional area within NSW,” she said.

“This not only supports accommodation in our region but also small businesses, our hospitality industries and showcases our region, the food bowl of Australia.”

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Mr Littleproud said this was an important gathering as it would be the party’s last NSW conference before the next federal election.

“The next federal election will be a big decision. A big decision for Australians,” he declared.

“It’s all about cost of living. You’ve got a government that has lost control of inflation because of their ideology not meeting the practical reality of what’s been bled out of Australians’ wallets.”

Mr Littleproud offered a sketch of the National Party’s plan including cuts to migration, a realignment of energy policy with less focus on renewables and the inclusion of nuclear, the recommencement of live sheep exports, changes to the Murray Darling strategy, an end to the “fresh food tax” and the scrapping of Labor’s vehicle emission standards.

“What you see is what you get out of the National Party, and Peter Dutton and I will call it as it is,” Mr Littleproud said.

“You’ll see our policies and you’ll see how we can use just some good old common sense to get your cost of living back under control.

“Those are the commitments and that’s what we’ll hear from our membership.”

NSW leader Dugald Saunders echoed the federal leader’s critique of Labor’s response to the cost-of-living crisis and set his sights on next week’s NSW State Budget.

“Unless there’s a miracle, we will see again, families kicked in the guts when they need help the most,” he said.

“There are lots of excuses coming from our state Labor Government. We know they need to do better. We are here to hold them to account and a place like Wagga Wagga is a great place to be able to see the optimism and the hope for the future.”

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Mr McCormack singled out water buybacks as a local issue that would be a key focus for the weekend.

“We know that buybacks do so much damage, not just on the river communities, but indeed on everybody who wants and needs to have a livelihood on that river,” he said.

“Of course the environment is very important. It is absolutely imperative, but we don’t want our social fabric in those communities to be destroyed.”

Mr McCormack said it was the first time Wagga had hosted the conference in over a decade and he said they looked forward to a couple of days of robust discussions.

“The thing about a National Party conference is that anybody can get up and speak their mind. And those motions that come from the floor of a National Party conference can end up in the party room and end up as legislation,” he said.

“We hold our conferences in the regions because we care about the regions. We live in the regions; we want the regions to be the best they can be.”

The NSW Nationals Annual General Conference in Wagga runs from 13 – 15 June.

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