Nationals push for more bush seats amid drought crisis
THE Nationals will launch an extraordinary push for extra politicians to be elected to represent the bush as regional NSW faces the worst drought crisis in history.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro will today begin a public campaign for more seats to be created in regional areas despite a stagnant population - a move that risks being cast by opponents as a push for more snouts in the political trough.
A seat redistribution by the electoral commission is due to take place this parliamentary term, which traditionally realigns seat boundaries with population changes.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Mr Barilaro (pictured) has discussed his idea of overriding population changes to favour the bush with Premier Gladys Berejiklian who is appreciative of his concerns.
While the NSW Nationals has not put a firm number on how many new seats it believes need to be created in the bush, it is understood a substantial increase is desired.
The number of seats across NSW has shrunk from 109 in 1988 to 99 seats in 1991 and 93 seats in 1999 - a number that remains today.
Mr Barilaro said that as an example, population in Liberal Minister Victor Dominello's electorate area of Ryde had increased by more than 40,000 in 2017-18 while many country towns had remained static. "Given that parliamentary seats are based on average populations of around 50,000 people we can expect more seats created for metropolitan areas while regional seat numbers remain the same," Mr Barilaro said.
"If the regions are to maintain a voice in this place then we need to ensure that our democracy will cater for it."
Mr Barilaro pointed out that the massive electorate of Barwon, held by the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party, has 69 schools, 28 hospitals, 16 State Emergency Service stations as well as 4000km of state roads.
In comparison, the North Shore electorate has five public schools, one SES station and a public hospital.
"This idea that population numbers somehow constitute a fair and equitable area for representation just doesn't stack up - if this means more seats need to be added to the NSW parliament then let it be," he said.
Any redistribution will be decided by the electoral commission, however political parties have an opportunity to put ideas forward.