Our Say: Two years to go, but would-be MPs line up

The queue to become the Member for Dubbo at the next state election keeps on growing.

It is only March 2017 and the election is not due until early 2019, but political parties and some individuals are already focusing on the poll.

The latest party to signal its intention to contest the seat is Pauline Hanson’s One Nation. The party’s NSW senator Brian Burston says One Nation will have candidates in Dubbo and six other lower house seats – all held by the Nationals.

The party may not stop there. Senator Burston says those seats are targets “plus, many more”.

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF), jubilant after taking the Orange electorate from the Nationals late last year, has already declared it will target the same seven seats.

One Nation has hinted at a potential preference deal with the SFF.

Dubbo is held by Police and Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant, who has said he is focusing on continuing his work for his constituents when asked about the election intentions of other parties or individuals. In the past, he has dismissed an independent MP as an ineffective option for Dubbo.

Voters can expect to see the Nationals, Labor, the Greens, SFF, One Nation, perhaps the Christian Democratic Party and independents contesting. The names of former mayor Mathew Dickerson and his former deputy Ben Shields have been put forward as possible challengers.

Motivating the growing political interest in Dubbo is the “sniff of blood in the water” after the Nationals lost Orange over the greyhound racing ban and council mergers. Those issues damaged the Liberal-National Coalition in opinion polls.

But, will those issues still influence voters in 2019?

As of now, the Nationals in targeted electorates are set to face perhaps the most serious challenge from competitors from the right anxious to capitalise on the disaffection of voters with the mainstream parties.

That will be an unusual position for the Nationals. Could the SFF duplicate an Orange victory in another seat? What of One Nation? What impact would the two parties’ presence and any preference deals have on the conservative vote?

A week is a long time in politics, two years would be like infinity. Much could change.

But, sitting MPs will have good reason to be looking over their shoulders more often.