'I don't like shooting much,' Shooters party candidate admits

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 03:  NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli delivers a speech during the official opening of the Anzac Park Public School on August 3, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 03: NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli delivers a speech during the official opening of the Anzac Park Public School on August 3, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Daniel Munoz/Fairfax Media)

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate seeking to replace former Nationals minister Adrian Piccoli in the NSW Parliament says she is "not across" the party's policy of repealing the National Firearms Agreement struck after the Port Arthur massacre and admits: "I don't like shooting much."

Farmer Helen Dalton, the party's candidate for the seat of Murray in the October 14 byelection, says she has a firearms licence for her .22 calibre rifle because "sometimes I've got to put down a sick animal".

But she told Fairfax Media: "I don't like shooting much. But I've got it because I need to have it."

Ms Dalton, 57, said she was aware the party "sort of emerged" after the introduction of "over the top" laws introduced under former prime minister John Howard after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

However, asked if she supported her party's position that the laws should be repealed, which would lead to greater access to semi-automatic weapons, Ms Dalton said: "I don't actually know too much about that."

"It's not a priority for me," she said. "I'm a licensed shooter and I'm not across that legislation, no. I'm not across the legislation for education either, know what I mean?"

Ms Dalton is viewed by some as the embodiment of the political opportunities being exploited by the SFF - which added "farmers" to its name last year - in light of challenges facing the Nationals in regional and rural NSW, highlighted by the disastrous loss in last year's Orange byelection.

A former committed Nationals voter, Ms Dalton is well credentialled. She sits on the Riverina local land services board and was until recently on the board of NSW Farmers.

She has represented irrigators on water taskforces within NSW Farmers and the National Farmers Federation.

Before the 2015 election, Ms Dalton unsuccessfully sought Nationals preselection against Mr Piccoli, the then education minister.

She later quit the Nationals to run against Mr Piccoli, securing 18 per cent of the primary vote. After the poll she expressed interest in rejoining the party, believing that Mr Piccoli would not last a full term.

But Ms Dalton says she was invited by Nationals state director Nathan Quigley to "write a page summary as to why I would make a good National party person, which I felt terribly insulted by".

Ms Dalton turned to the Shooters - whose members she had met on the booths at the 2015 poll - before Mr Piccoli resigned in September.

She says she looked at the SFF policies and thought, "these people are genuine about representing regional NSW, because the Nats weren't", adding that those on water and infrastructure were particularly attractive.

In a sign of the threat she may pose, Nationals leader John Barilaro unsuccessfully approached Ms Dalton to seek preselection for the party in Murray.

Mr Quigley defended the party's actions, explaining that because Ms Dalton had run against the Nationals as an independent "she was asked to show cause as to why she should be readmitted as a member".

He said he believed Ms Dalton's agenda and profile as an independent was being "hijacked by these guys [the Shooters]".

But NSW party MLC Robert Borsak rejected this. "Hijacking infers that we've somehow kidnapped her; that's not the case," he said.

"She came to us willingly as part of our team when she was approached by [fellow MLC] Robert Brown. She had long discussions and considered her position carefully."

Mr Borsak said whether or not Ms Dalton like shooting "doesn't really matter".

"It's the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party. She might not be across the detail of what's in our policies but she certainly signed on for them."

This story 'I don't like shooting much,' Shooters party candidate admits first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.