Premier Mike Baird says his party is “committed to the Illawarra” despite its lack of a Wollongong byelection candidate and has moved to assure voters the Liberals will be in the mix at the next state election – in 2019.
Less than a month out from the November 12 byelection, three candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to become the next Member for Wollongong.
Paul Scully (Labor), Gordon Bradbery (Independent) and Cath Blakey (Greens) will feature on the byelection ballot paper.
The Mercury revealed on September 2 the Liberals wouldn’t contest the state seat – confirmation that came via a one-sentence statement from the NSW Liberal Party.
During his visit to Wollongong on Monday, the Mercury asked the Premier why the Liberals hadn’t put a candidate forward.
In reply, Mr Baird said the matter was “ultimately up to the party to determine”.
“Clearly it’s up to local residents to decide where they want to vote and who they want to vote for,” he said.
“There’s obviously an independent candidate that’s running, there’s a Labor candidate, there’s a few others.
“The party has made a decision at this stage not to run a candidate, but there’s a wide field.”
I can assure you there will be a candidate at the next state election [in 2019]
The Premier was questioned further about the missing candidate, given he had commented a few minutes earlier that the Liberal Party was investing in the Illawarra.
“Why not invest a candidate so people can vote for the Liberal Party?” Mr Baird was asked during a media conference.
In response, the Premier cited the financial challenges the party had faced meant “resources weren’t available”
In March, the NSW Electoral Commission determined the NSW Liberal Party was ineligible for public funding after it failed to lodge a requisite declaration for the 2010-11 disclosure period. The party’s eligibility was reinstated last month.
“I can assure you there will be a [Wollongong] candidate at the next state election [in 2019] and we will do everything we possibly can to continue to support people here in the Illawarra,” Mr Baird said.
“Look at our track record; you go down the Princes Highway and you start to see what is being delivered there versus what we saw previously. We’re committed to the Illawarra and we will continue to be.”