Bede Burke is in for a big weekend.
The Tamworth based egg producer will be chairing his third straight NSW Nationals Conference, and was also voted in to chair the Central Council for another year, and has already staked his case to make it two.
Before hundreds of grassroot members hit the Silver City town of Broken Hill to debate over 60 motions, the Central Council held their AGM, and with a huge 18 months ahead of them some big decisions had to be made.
“I told the council at the last meeting my view of the world. I believe that whoever leads the council into the next year needs to commit for two years and I am happy to do that,” Mr Burke said.
“The Nationals are at a bit of a high water mark at the moment – in government at both state and federal levels with more representation than ever in the houses.
“With a fixed date state election in March 2019 and a federal election set for July 2019 it is a really important time for us to focus and have a clear image of stability, clarity and vision.”
Following the Central Council election Mr Burke began the task of chairing the two day conference, with 65 motions to be forwarded, debated, and voted on.
Issues range from the merits of a banking royal commission, decriminalisation of abortion, water policy, decentralisation, through to mobility scooter usage, and almost everything in between.
One of the most interesting motions will be forwarded by the Corowa Branch, who would like to see the term coalition put to bed, in order to further distinguish between the National and the Liberal parties.
That debate could carry even more interest with premier Gladys Berejiklian set to become the first Liberal leader to attend the Nationals Conference in 25 years, after accepting a personal invitation from deputy premier John Barilaro.
“It is a really important topic to be debated – often we (Nationals) get caught up in the government of the day,” Mr Burke said.
“In NSW we work well in the coalition, unlike Western Australia, although I would prefer the term Liberals and Nationals in government, instead of coalition.
“We want the community to understand what we do and what we can do.
Last year we fell on two poor policies, namely greyhounds and council amalgamations, but that has allowed us to re-focus on what the community wants and how to invest in to that.”
Locally the Tamworth branch will be represented by about 18 delegates, after another eight withdrew due to schedule clashes.
They will be putting forward two motions, and will also have their name attached to a third joint motion.
The first motion is to “urge all electoral councils to use the community pre-selection process, particularly when a sitting member is retiring”, as the party anticipates at least four to five retirements by the 2019 election.
The second motion will ask the government to release excess environmental water for sale, while the joint motion will address the Murray Darling Basin Plan offsets.