Dalton to decide on federal tilt soon after 12 February NSW by-elections
The outcome of four by-elections in New South Wales will inform whether the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MP Helen Dalton will run for the federal seat of Farrer at the impending federal election.
Mrs Dalton has told Flow listeners the 12 February date is crunch time for her to decide whether she will run against incumbent Liberal MP and Environment Minister Sussan Ley for the south-western NSW federal seat, or remain in state politics.
Ms Ley is reportedly facing a separate headache of securing preselection with local Liberal Party members who are pushing for a different candidate. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is understood to have sought to intervene in Ms Ley's, and several other NSW cases of preselections where incumbents are under threat from party members.
Flow understands that the determinant of whether Mrs Dalton runs for Farrer will be whether the Liberal-National coalition retains the seats formerly held by former party leaders Gladys Berejiklian (Willoughby) and John Barilaro (Monaro), plus that of Andrew Constance (Bega) who has himself resigned to contest a federal seat. Labor will also be seeking to retain former leader Jodi McKay's seat of Strathfield.
All are likely to be retained and, absent a big swing towards the SFFP, Mrs Dalton is expected to cut ties with the party that helped her into office and look to add to the currently 7-strong crossbench in federal parliament.
In a balance-of-power scenario as was seen after the 2010 election with a hung parliament, Mrs Dalton could attract significant interest in south western NSW communities from Messrs Morrison and Albanese to spend their way into office.
Mrs Dalton told Flow that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has been more forthcoming than his predecessor Ms Berejiklian in communicating regularly with her.
The vacant state seats due to by-elections places the NSW Coalition government technically in minority, but should the three seats they hold remain in their collective fold, the government has a majority of three seats.
Only a shock loss of one or two of those seats to independents might stop Mrs Dalton's thoughts of trekking to nearby Canberra instead of Sydney to advocate for, largely, the same constituents.