A third party anti-National Party group; Anyone But Nats is gaining momentum around the state in the lead up the state elections in March.
The group, founded by Rohan Boehm and retired Mudgee businessman Charles Tym - as the name suggests - centres on a simple premise.
“[We want] to give people the confidence to not vote for the Nats and to consider all the opportunities and possibilities of changing the vote and daring the vote different.” Rohan said.
“On its own, individual parties can influence to a degree but we figured a movement was already afoot and there are people from all political spectrums really wanting to not support the Nats,” he said.
“It’s become obvious that this is a national issue and it’s not something we’ve recently invented - we’ve known this for a long time - we realise that the idea of Anyone But Nats a really has a much broader appeal.”
“What we’re saying is that if you want change, voting does work but what works better is preferential voting.”
“We don’t endorse any individual candidate, we don’t endorse any political party or any other political movement.” ”It’s not so much about the proclivities of the Nats to find themselves in dire straits because of their behaviour. I firmly believe it’s a symptom, not the cause of their problems.”
Mudgee sits in the state electorate of Dubbo, currently held by the National Party’s Troy Grant who has announced he will leave politics at the state election in March.
The Nationals have put forward former ABC radio host Dugald Saunders as their candidate and has been active in promoting him, with Saunders often seen with Troy at recent press conferences.
The Mudgee Guardian reached out to Mr Saunders about the anti-nats group and if he thinks any traction could affect his election chances.
“We are fortunate to live in a democracy and any candidate or third party campaigner is entitled to express their own point of view,” he wrote.
“However the Anyone But Nats group seems to have overlooked the many new hospitals built, being built or being upgraded around the State including of course in Mudgee. The Nats have also delivered better roads, better community facilities and better education outcomes for Mudgee and its surrounding areas.
“The Anyone But Nats group seem to be based on negativity, anger and opportunity which is not what the voters are looking for. A protest vote only weakens the voice and influence of voters living in regional NSW in places such as Mudgee.”
“Although the Nationals/Liberal government is on track to win a third term with a reduced majority, it will undoubtedly be harder because of groups such as this one.”
”The Nats are the only modern political force solely committed to making the lives of regional Australians better.”
The Mudgee Guardian contacted all five of the candidates and their responses are below in full.
Full candidate responses (updated)
Rod Pryor (Greens)
I am supportive of the Anyone but Nats campaign and look forward to the forum on the 1st of Feb.
It is time that people in NSW realized that the National party is not the country party of old.When the Nationals speak of supporting regional NSW what they are really saying is they support the mining industry and larger farming operations like the cotton growers of northern NSW.
The support and involvement of the Nationals in the Narrabri CSG project is questionable,and it must be remembered that the water theft as revealed by our ABC took place under the administration of the Nationals.
We can now see the effects of bad if not corrupt water policy on our river systems today with the disaster unfolding on the lower Darling.
Lara Quealy (Shooters, Fishers, Farmers)
There is a clear feeling of being let down and rural voters being taken for granted by the National Party.
Huge spending continues in Sydney on light rail west connect and of course the stadiums being rebuilt.
While rural towns suffer and small business struggle.
The road between Mudgee and Dubbo is an obvious example of the way the electorate has been neglected.
It takes a petition from Dubbo National party candidate to create attention for a multilevel car park at a major hospital like Dubbo which services the wider region.
While our rural schools are crying out for extra funding for facilities and the Premier hands out baby bundles at at tax payer cost.
And last but not least our agriculture sector.
If ever there was an industry that provides so much but receives so little.
A sector faced with much uncertainty over water ,foreign investment , coal seam gas , native vegetation and lack of drought assistance.
Why would anyone want to put the Nats first.
For years they've neglected the people who’ve faithfully voted for them.
It's time to put the Nats last, where they've put rural electorates for so long.
Stephen Lawrence (Country Labor)
"It's good to see as many people involved in the political process as possible. The Anyone But The Nats group has campaigned hard on the National Party's disgraceful diversion of people's water resources to their big agribusiness mates. It is good to see this important issue brought to the fore.".
"I certainly hope that the group puts resources into exposing the failings of the National Party in the Dubbo electorate. It is hard to say at this stage however what sort of impact they will have."
Dugald Saunders (Nationals)
We are fortunate to live in a democracy and any candidate or third party campaigner is entitled to express their own point of view. However the Anyone But Nats group seems to have overlooked the many new hospitals built, being built or being upgraded around the State including of course in Mudgee .
Hospitals bring better access to health services which fringe groups, Independents and minor parties can’t deliver. Only the Nats deliver.
The Nats have also delivered better roads, better community facilities and better education outcomes for Mudgee and its surrounding areas.
In Mudgee only the Nats can deliver Glen Willow Stage 2, a new art gallery, water treatment upgrades and improved airport infrastructure. The Anyone But Nats group seem to be based on negativity, anger and opportunity which is not what the voters are looking for.
A protest vote only weakens the voice and influence of voters living in regional NSW in places such as Mudgee. Although the Nationals/Liberal government is on track to win a third term with a reduced majority, it will undoubtedly be harder because of groups such as this one.
The Nats celebrate 100 years as a political party this year despite many challenges during that period. The Nats are the only modern political force solely committed to making the lives of regional Australians better.
Mathew Dickerson (Independent)
I first heard of the ‘Anyone but the Nats’ group approximately three months ago. Along with other candidates, I was invited to speak at a function held in Gilgandra on 13 October 2018.
I attended that forum and was pleasantly surprised that the focus of the group was to ensure that the voice of regional Australia was heard in the corridors of power at the State and National levels. They believe the best way to achieve that is to put the Na
tionals last on the ballot paper as they believe that the Nationals are no longer representing regional areas. If you look back at a brief history of the National Party, it was formed federally in 1920 to represent graziers, farmers and rural voters generally.
It started as the Progressive Party but quickly changed its name to the Country Party. It’s first leader, William McWilliams, lasted only just over a year before he was deposed as leader following instances where he voted against the party line.
McWilliams left the Country Party and sat as an Independent. After several name changes over many years, the current name was adopted in 1982. As I travel this electorate and in other regional areas, I hear a growing chorus of voices that say that the National Party is forgetting its country origins and is no longer representing regional Australia.
More and more people feel that the National Party is simply a junior member of the coalition and, as such, is subservient to the Liberal Party. Even a breakdown of voting behaviour shows the reduced influence of the National Party.
The National party has polled as high as 15.5 per cent of the nationwide vote but at the last election this had dropped to 4.6 per cent. My thought is that the ‘Anyone but the Nats’ group has a belief that if the Nats are placed last and an Independent, for example, is elected in a traditional Nationals seat, more attention will be paid to the electorate and better outcomes will be achieved by having an individual fighting for the best outcomes for that electorate. Groups such as ‘Anyone but the Nats’ and minor parties are only emerging because of the failure of the major political parties to truly represent the people.
There are many people I speak with as I travel the electorate that have always voted for the ‘Country Party’ (as many people still call the Nationals) and will continue to vote for the ‘Country Party’ out of habit. I would prefer people thought about their vote and actually voted for the person that they believe is going to be the best possible representative for this electorate.
If the ‘Anyone but the Nats’ group is successful in making people think about their vote more than just voting out of habit, then undoubtedly, I believe it will result in a better outcome for me at the election. I am not a member of any party so I am only relying on people voting for me as an individual rather than following a party. This puts me at a huge disadvantage but groups such as ‘Anyone but the Nats’ can help people realise the power of their vote.