Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis is a firm believer that retiring premier, Mike Baird, has left a legacy that “will be appreciated far more when the infrastructure is complete … and we will really respect the work that he did in that regard, as treasurer and premier”.
He also sees an opportunity for the Nationals to improve its standing in the government.
“Every time there is a change of leadership there will be a new Coalition agreement prepared; especially now that we have to have a new premier,” he said, “… and that’s rightly so.”
Mr Gulaptis said he “was shocked like everybody else,” when he heard the news, and “disappointed that [Mr Baird] won’t be leading New South Wales”.
“Between him and Barry O’Farrell, they really set the state up for a very bright future,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“They took New South Wales from being the worst performing state to the powerhouse of the nation and we can see the legacy right here in the Clarence Valley: with the upgrade to the Pacific Highway, the new Grafton bridge, the new gaol and, further afield, we have a new hospital at Byron Bay and a $280 million dollar upgrade to the Lismore Base Hospital.”
Looking forward, however, Mr Gulaptis’s party is ready to seize opportunities presented by the inevitable changes, following Mr Baird’s retirement.
The Deputy Premier, the Nationals’ John Barilaro, has demanded an end to forced council amalgamations in regional NSW and, in his words, as reported by the ABC, drawn a “line in the sand that the NSW Nationals won’t just accept the crumbs from the Liberal party table”, and made it “absolutely clear to the incoming leader of the NSW Liberals [Gladys Berejiklian] … that the NSW Nationals no longer will be taken for granted”.
Further, he said he would be going to the Liberal Party with some “significant demands”.
Commenting on his leader’s statements, Mr Gulaptis said he thought that “clearly, there have been some government policies that have hurt regional New South Wales”.
“We, as Nationals, have … looked to ensure that regional New South Wales gets a fair share and isn’t taken for granted,” he said.
“…I think it’s a fair comment by [John Barilaro] … and if that means having a squabble with the Libs, then we’ll do that.
“…We [the Nationals] are serving regional New South Wales in the best possible way, but we’ve hit them [the Liberals], basically, where their heart is on issues like local council amalgamations and the greyhound ban.
“…We need to be more sensitive and more attuned to the aspirations and the lifestyles of the people who live in regional New South Wales.”