Nationals expect to lose votes

SOME would say it's a case of "keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer", but Nationals candidate for Clarence Chris Gulaptis preferred the irony that his campaign office was two doors to the left of the Country Labor's - at least when you look out.

The office, at 42b Prince St, Grafton, was officially opened by Deputy Premier (and NSW Nationals Leader) Andrew Stoner who had paid a quick visit to his "dear old Aunty" in Mary St while he was in town.

Mr Stoner told the gathering the party would be fooling itself to believe it could retain the 31 per cent margin achieved by former Clarence member Steve Cansdell in the March State election.

He said the outstanding result from Mr Cansdell reflected a strong personal following and a backlash against 16 years of Labor neglect.

"I predict a swing against us which is why Chris will have to shake as many hands as possible and knock on as many doors as possible to secure his role as a member of government that will be in for at least two terms," Mr Stoner said.

He said the Clarence by-election was the first test of the electorate's response to Federal Labor's "terrible decisions" on live cattle exports, boat people and the carbon tax.

Mr Gulaptis said the NSW Coalition Government had already delivered for regional NSW in its first budget in 16 years.

He said 30 per cent of the State's infrastructure build would take place in regional NSW in the next 10 years and 40,000 of the targeted 100,000 new jobs in NSW over the same period would be in the bush.

The Pacific Hwy upgrade would offer significant employment in the Clarence electorate in the next five years, he said, but it was too early to outline other projects that would create jobs in the area.

"The critical thing in the area is jobs in Grafton because it has copped the biggest hits of late," he said.

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