Wagga has been bombarded with visits from government heavyweights ahead of Saturday’s crucial byelection.
A whopping 17 out of 23 ministers have visited in the lead-up to the poll.
Some, including Premier Gladys and Health Minister Brad Hazzard, have visited multiple times, while others have shunned the media spotlight in favour of low-key visits to community events.
Tens of millions of dollars has been announced for major projects including the Tumut Hospital, a multi-storey car park at Wagga Base Hospital and road improvements around the Gobba Bridge.
The visits began before the Liberals had a candidate.
According to political experts, there could be more at play than just supporting that candidate, Julia Ham.
Christopher Sheil, a senior research fellow at the University of NSW, believes winning Wagga is vital ahead of the March 2019 general election.
“There is a chance that the Liberal government will be defeated in the next state election and if they lose this byelection – and they’ve had a few shocks in byelections in the past – or there is a really big swing, it will be harder to sustain the belief they have any momentum and people will start to presume the momentum is with Labor,” Dr Sheil said.
“So it’s very much connected to the election early next year and trying to forestall the impression there’s some momentum running against the government.
“The Orange byelection gave them a huge shock and they don’t want to get such a shock again, obviously.
They’ve got to try to minimise the damage.”
Dr Sheil said there was growing anger in Sydney towards the government.
“There are all these developments. You can hardly move in the centre of Sydney and the anger that’s around the place is large,” he said.
“They are at serious risk at the next state election and they have to do their best to make every one a winner from here on in.”
Dr Sheil said opinion was divided on whether big-ticket infrastructure announcements won over voters.
“It’s easy to be cynical about this stuff, but it is also traditional and it might be missed if it didn’t occur,” he said
“It does tend to encourage marginal behaviour, doesn’t it? If you get all this pork barrelling when there’s stuff at stake for the government, it encouraging to have stuff at stake at every election so you’ll get more out of it.”
Electional analyst Antony Green agreed the government would be keen to retain Wagga ahead of the 2019 poll.
“They don’t want to lose it. They lost the Orange byelection,” he said.
“If they lose a seat to an independent or to Labor, it just makes the next election more difficult.”