NSW Nationals chairman Andrew Fraser has expressed his delight at the party’s overwhelming victory in the recent Upper Hunter by-election.
Following the resignation of sitting member Michael Johnsen, due to sordid allegations which he strenuously denied, many experts believed the “marginal” seat was up for grabs.
In fact, 13 candidates – including Aberdeen’s Kirsty O’Connell (Independent), Dungog’s Archie Lea (Independent), Novocastrian Eva Pears (Liberal Democratic Party), Lower Belford’s Dale McNamara (Pauline Hanson’s One Nation), Clarence Town’s David Layzell (The Nationals), Salisbury’s Tracy Norman (Independent), Muswellbrook’s Steven Reynolds (Independent), Scone’s Sue Abbott (The Greens), McCullys Gap’s Jeff Drayton (Labor), Singleton’s Calum Blair (Sustainable Australia), Annandale’s Michael Dello-Iacovo (Animal Justice Party), Singleton’s Sue Gilroy (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers) and Scone’s Kate Fraser (Independent) – vied for the position.
But, Mr Layzell claimed an easy victory last Saturday (22 May), with Hunter federal MP Joel Fitzgibbon calling the outcome “diabolical” for the state Labor party.
This week, in the aftermath of the by-election, Jodi McKay resigned as the NSW Opposition leader and her Deputy Yasmin Catley MP also stepped down.
Mr Fraser congratulated Mr Layzell on the win and thanked everyone involved for their efforts.
“Dave is a good bloke, a solid family man and a man of his word, and I know he’ll work hard for the people of the Upper Hunter,” he said.
“This was a tough campaign, but this result was made possible thanks to the enormous support of everyone who rallied around behind a terrific local candidate.
“One of the great things about The Nationals is that we support each other like one big extended family and we all chip in when needed.
“I’m just so proud of everyone who helped us keep the seat.”
Mr Layzell, a construction manager and father-of-four from Clarence Town, campaigned on a platform of protecting jobs and fixing roads, saying he would represent all of the constituents of the Upper Hunter.
“This is a fantastic place to live, work and raise a family, and I believe the NSW Nationals are the only party who can deliver what this community needs,” he admitted.
“I am humbled by the result and I am grateful for the trust placed in me by the people of the Upper Hunter.
“This by-election was a strong endorsement of our platform of protecting local jobs, fixing local roads and building a safer, stronger future for our region.
“I want to thank everyone for your support.
“Now the hard work of delivering for this region continues – this is only the beginning.
“My commitment to my constituents is that I will work hard for everyone – those who voted for me and those who didn’t – and I will work hard every day to reward the trust you have placed in me.”
NSW Deputy Premier and NSW Nationals Leader John Barilaro said the triumph in the Upper Hunter was testament to the good work the NSW Nationals were doing.
He added it was a great sign of things to come for the future.
“The NSW Nationals fought tooth and nail in the Upper Hunter to secure this win but there is more work to do – and we are not going anywhere,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Dave Layzell was a terrific candidate and he will be an even better Local member for the people of the Upper Hunter.
“This is a big win for the entire NSW Nationals party and has reaffirmed to us that we are on the right track with our advocacy for grassroots issues and our strong track record of making sure rural and regional NSW gets its fair share.
“I would like thank every single person who did the hard yards volunteering during this campaign, from letterbox drops to booth dressing and handing out how to vote cards.
“We could not have done it without you.”