Pubdate: Sat, 19 Jun 1999
Source: Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
Author: Linda Doherty


The NSW National Party will refuse to play second fiddle to the Liberal
Party, the Nationals' State leader, Mr Souris, vowed yesterday, signalling a
hardline approach to homosexual and drug issues. 

Mr Souris, addressing his first State party conference as leader, said the
"Liberals may find us difficult to live with, but that's the way it's going
to be".

"We are done with being cajoled into sharing policies which betray our party
ideals," he told 300 conference delegates at Port Macquarie.

"No more going soft on drug laws. No more watering down our opposition to
indulgent and selfish gay rights laws."

But Mr Souris denied that his bid to reinvigorate the party - battered at
the State election by a resurgent One Nation, Labor and Independents - was a
further shift to the right.

"We like to think of ourselves as forward thinking and a modern new party,"
he said.

The State chairman, Mrs Helen Dickie, said the National Party lost 200,000
primary votes at last year's Federal election and the March State election
because it failed to debunk "myths" that it was ignoring its constituency. A
former NSW deputy premier, Mr Wal Murray, blamed the Nationals' Federal
leader, Mr Tim Fischer, for failing to
stand up to the Liberal Party and for poor communication with country voters.

Mr Murray, who chaired a review of the NSW party's structure and political
priorities, said the Nationals were ignoring their members, who had little
involvement in formulating policy. Members surveyed for his review did not
believe that Federal National MPs were defending their interests.

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