‘Barilaro chose his words carefully’: Nats still eyeing off Wagga

In a clear indication that the NSW Nationals have not given up on contesting Wagga Wagga, the party conducted polling in the seat on Monday night to gaugevoting intentions.

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Despite Premier Gladys Berejiklian maintaining on Monday that the Liberals would be the only Coalition party to run in Wagga Wagga, it is understood the Nationals have not ruled it out.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announces on Saturday that Daryl Maguire will quit. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

A byelection is expected to be calledonce disgraced MP Daryl Maguire formally writesto the Speaker of NSW Parliament and tenders his resignation from the seat. That is expected this week.

Fairfax understands the firm Telereach, traditionally used by the National Party, conducted the polling to look at voting intentions and “party favourability”.

Telereach asked voters which candidatewould get their vote, including the Labor candidate Dan Hayes, possible Liberal candidateGenevieve Fleming or Kay Hull for the Nationals.

It also asked about voting intentions for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party.

Several senior Nationals figures said Ms Hull, the former federal MP for the area, would be “the standout” candidate for the party but she would need to be convinced to run.

“I think if we said to Kay that she is the best person to win Wagga for the Coalition, she would have a very serious think about running,” a Nationals source said.

It is understood that if the polling indicates that the Nationals would have the best chance of winning the seat, the party would use that as leverage to contest it.

Ms Berejiklian returned early from her winter holidays on Saturday to announce that Mr Maguire, whowas heard on secretly recorded phone tapstrying to broker property deals and to seek commission on behalf of a Chinese developer, would quit parliament.

The Nationals leader John Barilaro said on Saturday: “It is a Liberal seat and they have every right to run. The Nationals have no interest in three-cornered contests.”

But senior party sources said Mr Barilaro chose his words carefully.

Daryl Maguire. Photo: AAP Image/Erik Anderson

“What people haven’t picked up on is John rightly said Wagga is a Liberal seat and there wouldn’t be a three-cornered contest,” a party source said.

“But it is only a Liberal seat until Daryl actually resigns and things change once that happens. John has not come out and said that the Nats won’t run.”

Asked on Monday if the Nationals had indicated to her they would not contest the seat, Ms Berejiklian responded “yep”.

A senior Liberal source said that there was “no way” the party would hand Wagga Wagga to the Nationals.

“We have held that seat for 60 years. Daryl was well respected for a long time, so there is no reason to think we won’t win it again. We might take a hit but we would win it again.”

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