WIMMERA Nationals have slammed a call for the Liberal Party and the National Party to merge.
Liberal Member for Western Victoria Simon Ramsay told The Weekly Times on Wednesday the Coalition would be better served by becoming one entity.
Member for Lowan Delahunty emphatically rejected Mr Ramsay’s call.
“No way,” he said.
“I’ve been in this job for nearly 15 years and this conversation comes up at odd times.
“The thinking Members of Parliament know that the Liberal Party is not going to win the next election without our support.”
The suggestion of a merger is another distraction for the government that has been hampered by leaked recordings of former Premier Ted Baillieu criticising his party room colleagues and continuing instability surrounding the independent Member for Frankston Geoff Shaw.
“These comments at this time are a distraction that serve no purpose as far as getting on with governing for the benefit of not only regional and rural Victoria, but Victoria in general,” Mr Delahunty said.
Nationals candidate for Lowan Emma Kealy also rejected Mr Ramsay’s suggestion.
“I completely reject any idea or concept that the Liberal Party and the Nationals should merge,” she said.
“The National Party has a clear focus on rural and regional Victoria.”
Mr Delahunty said the $160 million distributed to regional councils through the Regional Growth Fund would not have happened without the National Party.
Mr Ramsay said a merger would avoid the waste of resources in three-cornered contests.
The Liberal Party and the National Party will face off against each other in Ripon and the new seat of Euroa in November’s state election.
“The Coalition could be spending more money on beating Labor in seats like Ripon,” Mr Delahunty said.
“We’ve proved that in the federal seat of Mallee where the Liberal Party ran – and ran hard – and spent a lot of resources.
“We should have been competing against Labor.”
He said it was disappointing the Liberal Party had decided to contest Euroa.
Liberal candidate for Ripon Louise Staley – who is engaged in a three-cornered contest with the Nationals’ Scott Turner and Labor’s Daniel McGlone – refused to be drawn on Mr Ramsay’s comments.
“The Coalition could be spending more money on beating Labor in seats like Ripon.”
“I’m just concentrating on trying to win Ripon, I don’t have anything broader to say,” she said.
Mr Ramsay also claimed the Nationals were over-represented in the ministry.
Mr Delahunty said Mr Ramsay was mistaken on how many Nationals were in State Parliament.
“Different from what Simon Ramsay said, there are 13 Nationals Members of Parliament – not 12 – and there are five Nationals Ministers, not six,” he said.
“They are all key ministers and more importantly we are doing some great work in the Coalition.”