Nats meet in battle


TWO high-profile Tweed National Party members are set to go head-to-head in a contest to be the party's candidate in the 2007 state election.

Former Tweed mayor Warren Polglase is tipped to face a challenge from businessman Geoff Provest with branch meetings due to held within weeks as part of the preselection process.

They will be vying for the right to challenge Labor's sitting MP Neville Newell for the seat but could yet face further competition from the Liberals who have not yet decided whether to stand a candidate.

Some Liberals are privately known to favour standing a candidate in the seat which covers the highly urbanised areas of Tweed Heads, Banora Point, Terranora and Kingscliff.

Murwillumbah and the surrounding district has been split off from the Tweed electorate and placed in Lismore electorate under a redistribution due to take effect from the March 2007 poll.

The chances of a Liberal standing increased this week in the wake of a decision by Federal National Party members to target some Liberal seats following the defection of Senator Julian McGauran to the Liberal Party.

Yesterday Mr Provest confirmed he had been asked to stand as the Nationals candidate but would only say he was considering it.

Mr Provest runs a business consultancy is chairman of the federal government's Far Northern New South Wales Sustainable Region Committee.

He is also active supporting the management of the Salvation Army's annual Red Shield Appeal and Senior Citizens' week.

Yesterday Mr Polglase said he would try his best to become the National Party candidate for the Tweed but will accept the party decision if another is chosen.

Mr Polglase, who was sacked along with the rest of the council by the NSW Labor government in May last year, is so far the only National Party member to publicly put up his hand as a potential candidate.

He said he did not know who might challenge him for the right to contest the seat currently held by Labor MP Neville Newell.

"I wouldn't be aware who may or may not put their name forward. There's always a few people who come forward at the last moment," he said.

"I will endeavour to put my best foot forward and I will accept the result of the endorsement when it comes."

Meanwhile Federal Treasurer Peter Costello yesterday said he opposed any move for the Liberal and National parties to merge.

The Liberal treasurer said he objected to the two parties amalgamating, saying such a union could lead to a conservative splinter party forming.

"I really do believe in a coalition," Mr Costello said.

"The reason I believe in a coalition is that the Liberal Party wouldn't have a majority in its own right.

"It needs a coalition partner to form a majority and become a government and that's in the interests of the people of Australia," Mr Costello told ABC radio.

Mr Costello again rejected accusations that he was involved in the defection of former Nationals senator Julian McGauran to the Liberal Party.

"To me, whether he (Julian McGauran) has a National Party hat on, or a Liberal Party hat on, is not a big deal," he said. "The critical thing is whether he votes for the government's legislation in the Senate."

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