Political rivals: Katrina Hodgkinson and Pru Goward. Photo: Richard Briggs
The battle between the Liberals and Nationals over the seat of Goulburn has turned nasty after supporters of Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson launched a social media campaign attacking Community Services Minister Pru Goward and Premier Barry O'Farrell.
The unofficial Facebook page, Katrina Hodgkinson for Goulburn, has unflattering images of Ms Goward and Mr O'Farrell and says they ''just don't get regional NSW''.
It says Ms Goward has ''failed DOCS and failed Goulburn'' and accuses her of being a ''weak link'' in cabinet. The page also highlights an article about the investigation announced last week by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into state Liberal MPs Chris Hartcher, Chris Spence and Darren Webber.
''Labor embroiled, Liberals embroiled,'' the campaign says. ''Vote for the Nats - they won't let you down.''
The dispute between the parties was sparked when the Nationals said they would run a candidate in Ms Goward's seat of Goulburn at next year's state election. Ms Hodgkinson then said she would seek preselection in the seat, which Ms Goward had held for the Liberals since 2007.
The move followed an electoral redistribution that redrew Ms Hodgkinson's seat of Burrinjuck to create a new seat of Cootamundra and a redraw of Goulburn.
The decision by the Nationals to contest Goulburn infuriated Ms Goward and the Liberals, who warned a three-cornered contest would allow Labor to win the seat.
Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Andrew Stoner told the ABC's 7.30 NSW on Friday it was Ms Hodgkinson's ''democratic right'' to seek preselection in Goulburn.
But he acknowledged the dispute meant ''the parliamentary leaders - Barry O'Farrell and myself - will have to get involved''.
''I have every confidence that Barry O'Farrell and myself will be able to resolve this issue with our respective parties,'' he said. ''We will endeavour to have no three-cornered contests if at all possible in the next election and we will endeavour to resolve the situation regarding Goulburn and the two members who want to run in that seat.''
Party officials meet on Monday to discuss the issue. The National Party holds a ballot to choose its Goulburn candidate on March 14.
In what could be read as a deliberate attempt to emphasise the ability of Liberals to represent regional areas, Mr O'Farrell appointed government whip and Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire as his parliamentary secretary.
''Daryl will work closely with me on rural and regional issues as the NSW Liberals and Nationals government continues to deliver improved infrastructure and services to people across the state,'' Mr O'Farrell said.
A new whip will be selected at the Liberals meeting on Tuesday.