Less than three weeks out from the NSW election, Premier Dominic Perrottet is urging voters to stick with the status quo and reject independent candidates.
“This is a very important election. I’m not taking any vote for granted at all,” Mr Perrottet said on Monday in the northern beaches seat of Manly.
Mr Perrottet was flanked by Environment Minister James Griffin, who faces strong competition from Climate 200-funded teal independent Joeline Hackman.
“Every vote matters from metropolitan Sydney to regional NSW,” he said.
“It’s not a time to vote independent, it’s time to vote for the Liberals and Nationals,” he said when asked about the south coast seat of Kiama.
The NSW election clock is ticking. Candidate nominations close at midday on Wednesday, with the Liberal Party yet to finalise challengers in more than 15 seats.
This includes the south coast electorate of Kiama, where former Liberal MP Gareth Ward is running as an independent.
Mr Ward was removed from the Liberal Party and suspended from the parliament after being charged with sexual and indecent assault. He denies any wrongdoing and the case remains before the courts.
Mr Perrottet insisted the Liberals would re-take the seat at the March 25 poll, despite not yet having a candidate.
“We’ll have a candidate in Kiama, and we’re going to win it,” Mr Perrottet said.
He also said he would also support a fresh motion to suspend Mr Ward until the MP’s legal matters were resolved.
Labor Leader Chris Minns challenged Mr Perrottet to go further by not preferencing his former colleague on how-to-vote cards, or doing deals with him in the event of a hung parliament.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate … to contemplate a preference deal with him because they’re concerned about losing power,” Mr Minns said.
“What’s right? Your original position when you suspended him from parliament, or the political position now that you may need his vote?”
It came as Mr Minns faced a challenge in his own seat of Kogarah, where a redistribution has sliced his margin to just 0.1 per cent.
“I’ve always been honest that Kogarah, more often than not, has been a marginal electorate, but I love my community,” he said.
“I’m never going to swap seats.”
Meanwhile, the stoush over privatisation continues with Labor saying householders and businesses are paying the price after the government sold off critical infrastructure.
It comes after Treasurer and Energy Minister Matt Kean raised the prospect of intervening to delay the planned closure of Eraring, Australia’s largest coal power station.
“We’re not ruling things in or out,” he told The Australian on Monday.
The Lake Macquarie plant, owned by Origin Energy, previously announced it would wind up its operations by 2025.
The NSW government considered buying back the power station in 2021 but the deal fell apart.
Mr Kean now says the government is considering intervening to extend the life of Eraring, after a recent market update from the Australian Energy Market Operator showed NSW faced projected energy shortfalls over the next decade.
However, Mr Perrottet refused to back Mr Kean’s position, instead referring to the government’s 20-year energy road map, which tracks a path to future reliance on renewable energy.
Mr Minns seized on Mr Kean’s comments.
“This is the end result of privatisation. The taxpayers of this state have been fleeced,” he said.
“They’ve been taken for a ride by very savvy operators in the energy market and clearly the current Liberal government are not smart enough to deal with those complex negotiations.
“We’re getting hosed as a result of these privatisations.”