THE Orange byelection could become a litmus test for The Nationals’ leadership, with Deputy Premier Troy Grant quashing rumours he would consider standing down if the party lost the seat.
News Limited reported a Nationals source said Mr Grant acknowledged the pressure would be on if the seat was lost on November 12 and he would have to think about standing aside.
Union polling revealed The Nationals’ primary vote had slipped from 65.6 per cent to 37.6 per cent.
On Wednesday, Mr Grant said the statements were untrue, however speculation has been rife on his leadership, with members in the electorate saying conservative governments fixed things rather than banned things, as has been done with the greyhound industry.
The party’s central council tabled a motion of dissent against the greyhound ban earlier this month, although it was ultimately withdrawn just prior to the vote, and former National and independent Orange candidate Scott Munro said Mr Grant was on shaky ground.
“Which you deserve when you go away from the charter of the party,” he said.
“If they lose Orange, he’s gone.”
The Orange councillor believed The Nationals would spend $250,000 on candidate Scott Barrett’s campaign, which he said was toward the upper limit allowed by the NSW Electoral Commission.
“That’s unprecedented, usually they only spend $30,000-$40,000,” he said.
Mr Grant told the Fairfax Media in a statement he looked forward to returning to Orange to speak with the community about the issues important to them.
"The NSW Nationals team has a proud track record of delivering for the Orange electorate and as leader, I'm dedicated to ensuring this continues,” he said.
Mr Barrett said leadership speculation had not factored in regularly on the ground.
“Speculation is speculation – they’re more interested in what I can do for them,” he said.
He did not comment on the size of his campaign budget.
“We treat all byelections seriously, we never take anything for granted,” he said.
Nationals member Sam Farraway, who ran for preselection against Andrew Gee when he vacated the seat of Orange to pursue Calare, said he would support Mr Barrett.
“He would be a good candidate, he’s an on-the-ground type and I don’t think the electorate’s had that in awhile,” he said.