NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been accused of blackmail after tying a $25 million deal for a sporting complex to the election of a coalition candidate.
The premier says the multi-million-dollar, conditional pledge for the proposed Orange Sporting Precinct gives voters a choice between new Nationals candidate Kate Hazelton and sitting MP Philip Donato.
“I want the people of Orange to really have a choice at the next election,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
“This will only happen if Kate is the member and I want to make that clear because we’ve worked our guts out to build a strong budget and we want to make sure Orange gets its fair share.”
Ms Hazelton was preselected as the Nationals candidate for Orange at the weekend after the previous choice, 21-year-old Yvette Quinn, resigned in late 2018.
She’ll face Mr Donato, who broke the Nationals’ 69-year hold on the seat at a by-election in 2016 and became the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party’s first lower-house MP.
The Shooters MP said the premier’s offer was “essentially” an attempt to “blackmail the community” over a sporting complex that could host NRL and A-League games inside an 8500-capacity ground.
“The Orange community, just like Dubbo and Bathurst, is entitled to its fair share,” Mr Donato told reporters in Orange.
“We are all equal taxpayers across the state, it shouldn’t matter who your local representation is as to whether or not your community gets funding.”
Opposition Leader Michael Daley says it was another example of the government bossing regional people around.
“I’m not sure if it’s blackmail or a bribe but the message is clear: if you don’t do what you’re told, you’re not going to get your stadium,” the Labor leader told reporters.
“But people in Sydney will get three stadiums for billions of dollars.”
The NSW government is currently upgrading ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park and building new stadiums at Parramatta and Moore Park.