With less than 100 votes between them, and postal vote preferences to be counted this morning we cannot say whether Scott Barrett (NSW Nationals) or Phil Donato (Shooters Fishers & Farmers) has won the by-election for Orange as we go to press.
But there is no doubt the NSW Nationals have been mortally wounded by last Saturdays poll. Historically so. The wounds will also be felt hard by the Liberal party side of the coalition government.
The Nationals held the seat by a margin of more than 21 per cent, and have held this safest of safe NSW State seats since World War II.
While Sydney-centric Liberals are to blame, compliant Nationals went along with it – championing autocratic decisions (never supported by sound policy) around forced council amalgamations, overnight greyhound racing bans and a host of other edicts handed out by Mike Baird’s government, without any genuine attempt to explain them or get their acceptance.
And the principal wounds came from the Cabonne Shire. The swing in Molong was a staggering 60%. This is Nationals Heartland, the voters would not have given the seat up easily. Their hands would have been shaking as they filled out the ballot paper.
In the end, they were affronted that they had been forced to – by a government, and its National party members – who they saw as taking away their right to be heard, and ignoring them when they spoke out – on basic issues that they care for.