The Nationals NSW leader John Barilaro has pleaded with voters to "not change the jockey mid race", as he unveiled a swathe of spending at the party's election launch in Queanbeyan.
Mr Barilaro admitted the Coalition was tempting history by trying to win a third term.
"We are on the brink of reaping the benefits of all this hard work," Mr Barilaro told the Nationals election launch at the Q Centre in Queanbeyan. "That's why now isn't the time to change the jockey mid race."
Nationals TV ads hit the air straight after the launch with Mr Barilaro saying "we're in this for you. you've done the hard yards and now it's your time." 'It's your time' is the Nationals election slogan.
Among many initiatives Mr Barilaro said he would give young people a voice in NSW Cabinet by creating a new Regional Minister for Youth.
He said the future of regional NSW depends solely on the wellbeing, strength and abilities of its young people.
“The sad truth is that young people in the regions are 50 per cent more likely to commit suicide, youth unemployment is 20 per cent higher, and they are more likely to use harmful drugs like ice which can, quite simply, destroy families and communities,” Mr Barilaro said.
“The survival and prosperity of our regional towns relies on the teenagers and young adults of today, so it makes sense to give those people a voice at the highest level of Government.
“Our regional towns are losing the very people they need to stay, so it’s our job to give them the opportunities and support they need to live great lives outside of big cities,” he said.
The newly created position of Minister for Regional Youth will deliver a Regional Youth Strategy, establish a new Regional Youth Taskforce, establish the new Office of Regional Youth, which will fall within the Department of Premier and Cabinet; and commit at least $50 million, or 50 per cent of the next round of the Stronger Country Communities Fund (SCCF), specifically for projects and programs aimed at supporting young people in the regions. "This could include supporting local youth centres, PCYCs, sporting clubs or community colleges."
In the major spending area Mr Barilaro promised money out of the Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund for road projects:
· The establishment of a $500 million Fixing Local Roads program to assist councils in repairing, maintaining and sealing important local roads;
· The establishment of a $500 million Fixing Country Bridges program to replace the worst timber bridges in regional and rural communities (as revealed in The Land last week);
· A process to transfer up to 15,000 kilometres of council-owned roads back to the State; and
· The establishment of an Independent Expert Panel to oversee the asset transfer process.
Mr Barilaro said he had a healthy respect for the minor parties in the bush, and added the coalition was fighting against history to win a third term.
"It's been 50 years since we've won a third term, so the reality is we don't take it for granted, we are the underdogs," Mr Barilaro told reporters after his speech.
"You want to call it 'terrified,' I actually call it respect."
Mr Barilaro also backed Barnaby Joyce's idea to revive the Bradfield Scheme, to funnel water from Queensland, through NSW and into South Australia. He would give $25m to investigate the plan.
"In the past it's been looked at ... it's had some failings. What we're saying is let's pick that up and have another look at it in this day and age," Mr Barilaro said.
A regional seniors card for $250 free travel for 400,000 seniors was revealed last week. Both the Shooters and Independent MP Jeremy Buckingham have called the card a bribe and referred Nationals fliers to the Electoral Commission as a breach of the Electoral Act.
The Nationals have five of the most marginal seats in NSW and are battling from the South coast to the North Coast to stay in power. Betting agencies already have Labor at odds-on to win the election, although everyone including the Nationals say the election result will be close and probably not known by the end of election day on March 23.
The Nationals propose another election launch on the North Coast where they are battling to hold on to several seats.