1 July 2024

NSW Nationals dig in over Fang 'firing' as the Liberals threaten a Coalition split

| Chris Roe
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The Nationals’ Wes Fang lashed out at Opposition Leader Mark Speakman after seeing photos of his Wagga visit on Facebook. Photo: Facebook.

NSW Nationals firebrand Wes Fang has been unusually quiet over the weekend after his social media attack on Opposition Leader Mark Speakman triggered a tense stand-off between the Coalition partners.

NSW Liberal Party MPs will assemble tomorrow morning to consider their next steps and the future of the Coalition after Nationals leader Dugald Saunders refused to accept the sanctions meted out to his party colleague.

The drama kicked off late last week when Mr Fang called out the Liberals leader as “underhanded” for paying an official visit to Wagga Wagga without including the local Coalition MLC.

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In a now-deleted Facebook post, Mr Fang shared images from the Opposition Leader’s account featuring Mr Speakman at Wagga Base Hospital with local Independent Member, Dr Joe McGirr.

Facebook post

The now-deleted post from Mr Fang’s account. Photo: Facebook.

“The leader of the NSW Liberal’s slinks into Wagga Wagga pretending like the Libs actually care about the Riverina,” he said.

“He didn’t even have the courtesy to let me know he was coming.”

Mr Fang openly questioned Mr Speakman’s leadership, claiming that the local Liberal Party branch “weren’t bothered to organise an event with the current leader”, adding “That should tell you everything you need to know about the longevity of ‘Speako’s’ leadership”.

Mr Speakman, who took on the Liberal Party leadership after the election loss in April last year, hit back at Mr Fang, releasing a statement terminating “his appointments as Shadow Assistant Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional NSW, and Shadow Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Natural Resources, with immediate effect”.

The Nationals leader was then invited to name a replacement, but Mr Saunders instead squared up to his Liberals counterpart and challenged his authority to stand down Mr Fang.

The altercation has evolved into a test of Mr Speakman’s leadership, and the party is threatening to flex its muscles and punish the junior partner if the Nationals don’t fall in line.

Liberal Member for Albury Justin Clancy told the ABC that a split between the Liberals and the Nationals was on the table ahead of tomorrow’s crisis meeting.

“Even if there’s a need for us to go our separate ways for a period of time, then that will be the case,” he said, also reaffirming the need to be “effective and strong together”.

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While Mr Fang has not commented publicly since the stand-off began, he has never been shy in doling out criticism of his Liberal Party colleagues.

During the last election campaign, he called for Liberal candidate Julia Ham to be dumped and raised the ghost of disgraced Liberal MP Daryl Maguire as the party attempted to claw back local favour.

All Liberal MPs have been ordered to attend the party room meeting at 9:30 am tomorrow, while a source told Region that it was “business as usual” for the Nationals.

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