NSW Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner was forced to apologise to federal Liberal MP Alby Schultz last October after saying that he (Schultz) should be blindfolded and shot.

He pleaded that his off-the-cuff remarks about the meddlesome Schultz should never have been take seriously.

But if Stoner gave a press conference today suggesting that one of his National colleagues, Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser, be marched out at dawn, blindfolded and shot — nobody would be surprised.

Fraser has given an interview to this week’s edition of The Land making a series of damaging statements about the party’s internal affairs and Stoner’s plan to reform the process for pre-selecting election candidates.

He accused upper house Nationals Melinda Pavey and Trevor Khan and lower house MPs, Adrian Piccoli (Murrumbidgee) and Kevin Humphries (Barwon), of forming “a strong clique” and being undisciplined.

In fact, the four are all from the professional classes and they represent the future electoral hopes of the NSW Nationals, who have been stalked by a death wish for two decades.

Stoner is attempting to improve the party’s parliamentary gene pool by having more MPs like Pavey, Khan, Piccoli and Humphries, and less of those like Fraser, a former takeaway foodshop proprietor who has occupied a seat in parliament for a staggering 18 years.

Under Stoner’s proposal, to be debated by NSW Nationals this month, all eligible voters in the electorate could have a say in deciding the party’s candidate in American-style primary contests.

But Fraser opposes the plan saying that it could encourage factionalism and inadvertently put candidates into parliament who were closet independents.

“We could end up with another Rob Oakeshott — somebody who is elected as a National and then leaves,” he told The Land.

Oakeshott, MP for Port Macquarie, walked out of Nationals in March 2002 to become an independent and last year he moved to Canberra after capturing Lyne, the former electorate of Nationals leader Mark Vaile.

In December the accident-proner Fraser lost his front bench position after a pushing incident on the floor of the Legislative Assembly involving his colleague, Katrina Hodgkinson, MP for Burrinjuck.

Two months earlier he was sacked as the Nationals deputy leader in the wake of the party’s failure to win the Port Macquarie by-election and in 2005 he was censured after he tried to throttle then Roads Minister Joe Tripodi after a heated exchange in the chamber.

Fraser used The Land interview to reject allegations of drunkenness saying: “It’s easy for people in the Labor Party to paint you as a drinker if people in your own party are saying the same thing.”

His wife Kerrie also provided a character reference saying he had been “wrongly portrayed” as having a drinking problem.

“The only cartons we have about the house are milk cartons — he drinks two litres a day,” Mrs Fraser said.

After the Hodgkinson incident on December 2, I wrote in Crikey: “He (Fraser) has become one of state parliament’s bitter, angry and grumpy mature-aged men. His behaviour has become predictable but it is preventable. It’s now a question of whether Fraser wants to do something about it or not.”

Nothing has changed.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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