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Donato left on sidelines, as next phase of sporting stadium works get underway

From left to right: Orange mayor Jason Hamling; Nationals MLC Sam Farraway (obscured) and state MP Phil Donato (at microphone). Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes

State MP Phil Donato hasn't been invited to a media conference on Monday where the next stage of works on the Orange Regional Sports Precinct will get underway.

The media event has been called for 9am.

According to the invitation, sent by Orange City Council, "there will be a media opportunity near the site ... In attendance will be NSW Upper House MLC Sam Farraway, Orange Mayor Jason Hamling and Orange City Council Sport & Recreation Committee Chair Cr Tammy Greenhalgh".

"Wasn't informed or aware of this," Donato said when contacted by The Orange News Examiner on Saturday.

And then, in a jibe directed at the National Party, he added: "That's how the Nats roll!"

Donato said he has other commitments on Monday morning and would "probably not" make an unannounced appearance.

The tension between Donato - who represents the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers party - and the National Party, which lost the seat to Donato in 2016 following former premier Mike Baird's greyhound and council amalgamation policies, is real and at times palpable.

A press conference earlier this year at Banjo Patterson Park on Ophir Road to announce road funding was attended by Farraway, Donato and new mayor Jason Hamling.

A government bureaucrat, Hamling and Farraway spoke first.

"It's fair to say in terms of road infrastructure improvements, you've only got to look to the Mitchell Highway between Bathurst and Orange at some of the works," Farraway said.

"They are significant works that Transport for NSW are undertaking. Removing blind spots, new safety barriers, expansion of overtaking lanes.

State MP closes his eyes as Nationals MLC Sam Farraway speaks, at a road funding announcement earlier this year. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"The Fixing Local Roads program alone, half a billion dollars from the state government and a top up of $350 million from the federal government ... going to fixing local roads in regional and rural NSW. We are spending serious coin on road infrastructure."

As Farraway delivered the good news on funding, Donato had clasped his eyes firmly shut, as if meditating.

It wasn't clear that anyone was going to invite him to speak, so when there was a gap in the speeches he walked to the microphones.

He began: "I might say a few words if that's alright."

It was somewhere between a question and a statement of intent.

"Look it's great to be able to be here for this announcement for $700,000 to go towards the improvements of the Ophir Road here," Donato began generously, before giving (National Party) deputy premier and MP for Bathurst, Paul Toole, a swipe on the way through.

"It's interesting to listen to the previous speakers talk, and one of the issues in terms of road safety that I raised earlier ... was the Thompson Road - Mitchell Highway intersection, as the result of a fatality, which I warned the previous minister Paul Toole about, and eventually it got fixed, but it took a fatality for that to happen."

Donato was referring to the death in July last year of 15-year-old John Keegan, who died after being hit by a truck while coming to the aid of a couple who had been involved in an accident with the vehicle in which he was travelling.

Then Donato had some advice: "If they're looking for projects, Cargo Road is a project I'd ask them to consider, as is Banjo Paterson Way between Yeoval and Cumnock."

And finally, prodding the Nationals one more time, he finished with: "Certainly welcome the announcement; it's unprecedented, the level of investment in across the Orange electorate since I've been elected, and we thank the government for that.

"Let's continue putting the acid on the government - I don't mind doing that, I don't mind asking the tough questions of Sam and his colleagues ... to make sure we get our fair share because for too long we were taken for granted."

Asked by the media to respond, Farraway said, in part: "Orange, like the rest of regional NSW, is getting its fair share."

The next state election is a little under a year away.

It will be held on March 25, 2023.


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