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NSW National Party chair 'disappointed' with election result in state's west, says Liberals need to 'navel gaze'

ABC News (AU) logo ABC News (AU) 26/03/2023
Former deputy premier and NSW National Party leader Paul Toole on election night. (ABC News: Xanthe Gregory) © Provided by ABC News (AU) Former deputy premier and NSW National Party leader Paul Toole on election night. (ABC News: Xanthe Gregory)

Divisions among the National and Liberal parties have come under scrutiny as the Coalition comes to terms with its New South Wales election loss.

NSW National Party chair Andrew Fraser said he was "disappointed" the party couldn't regain seats from independents in regional electorates of Murray, Barwon and Orange.

But he remained confident the party would hold onto Tweed in northern NSW and Upper Hunter. Both seats are currently too close to call.

As Labor celebrates victories in seven Liberal seats, the Nationals are set to lose the seat of Monaro, which the ABC projected Labor candidate Steve Whan would win.

The seat was once held by former deputy premier John Barilaro.

Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams, who defected from the Nationals to the Liberals over koala policy in 2020, said the party should have focused more on seats like Monaro, instead of running a candidate in her safe Coalition seat on the state's mid north coast.

"I think [the National Party] should really consider the repercussions of what they have undertaken here in Port Macquarie," Ms Williams said.

"What the National Party have done is they've spent tens of thousands of dollars here contesting a seat that was likely to be won by a Coalition member and losing seats like Monaro where they really should have invested this money," she said.

Ms Williams' comments were dismissed by Mr Fraser, who said late Liberal pre-selections in key seats such as Premier-elect Chris Minn's seat of Kogarah have created issues for the Coalition.

"I think the Liberal Party really have to do some navel gazing," Mr Fraser said.

Similar sentiments have been aired by Nationals MLC Wes Fang, who's based in Wagga Wagga, where the Liberals and Nationals ran a candidate against independent Joe McGirr.

"We need to have a serious conversation between the Coalition parties about how we run in seats like Wagga," he said.

"They [the Liberals] have diverted resources from seats in Sydney and it may mean that they don't hold as many seats as they could have retained."

Focus remains on count

Out-going deputy premier and leader of the NSW Nationals, Paul Toole remained optimistic, despite the overall 2 per cent swing against the party across the state.

He said the Nationals seats of Cootamundra, Myall Lakes, Upper Hunter and Bathurst all increased their margin.

Mr Toole wouldn't be drawn on whether he'd step down as leader of the NSW Nationals, following Dominic Perrottet's decision to step down as Liberal Party leader.

"It's not about me, my focus is still on the count, we're still finalising those counts in a number of seats," he said.

Mr Fraser declined to comment when asked about Mr Toole's future, and said it was an issue for the partyroom.

"I think Paul [Toole] can hold his head high on the basis that, if anything, we might lose one seat."


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