Our Say: Just like the Nationals, without the Liberals

TAKE it as read that NSW will not be issuing firearms licences to 10-year-olds any time soon.

And take it as read that the vast majority of MPs in our state parliament will do whatever they can to distance themselves from the proposal put forward at the weekend by their Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) colleague.

Orange MP Phil Donato says giving young families the chance to go hunting together is far better than kids learning to use firearms “watching movies and playing video games”, but he will struggle to find anyone else in the Legislative Assembly willing to back his plan - publicly, at least.

So was Mr Donato’s moment in the spotlight a wasted opportunity?

Not at all. In fact, he must be delighted with how the story played out - and his party must be delighted, too.

Whether by accident or design, the timing of Mr Donato’s appearance on the front page of the weekend’s Sun Herald could not have been better for the SFF.

Mr Donato last year won the seat of Orange from the Nationals, in part, because he offered a real alternative to the major parties.

Dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of the greyhounds ban and council amalgamations left many voters unwilling to vote for the Coalition while the habit of a lifetime meant they could not vote Labor, either.

Mr Donato and the SFF gave them a palatable option – effectively a Nationals candidate who did not have to answer to the Liberals in the joint party room.

And the photo of Mr Donato out shooting with his son just reinforces that image. He is a country man, fighting for country issues and able to speak the language of the country without interference from city colleagues.

You can just imagine how well that image played to disaffected rural voters across the state – and particularly farmers in the Cootamundra electorate where a by-election is just around the corner.

The retirement last week of Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson has gifted the SFF the chance to get another MP in parliament and you can be sure they will campaign hard to win the seat.

They will be hoping it’s Orange all over again, and the Nationals can hear them coming. And that bit of weekend publicity for the SFF has just made the Nationals’ job that much harder again.