Nats choose Chris Gulaptis

CHRIS Gulaptis is the Nationals candidate in the Clarence by-election on November 19.

In a fiercely contested battle, Mr Gulaptis's pre-selection win came down to preferences.

Straight after his win, Mr Gulaptis told The Examiner he had always been confident.

"I think every candidate was confident; you don't do this unless you have a degree of confidence," he said.

Mr Gulaptis said his win was "an honour and a privilege" among such a strong field.

If elected, Mr Gulaptis said his priorities were to see "the fulfilment of the 2011 and 2012 budget items completed".

"We're already seeing hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the Clarence as a result of the change of government in March," he said.

"This year, $9 million for the Grafton Base Hospital; $1.2 million for ... Maclean Hospital; $4 million for planning for the second crossing of the Clarence; and a $2 million feasibility study for the Casino-Murwillumbah rail line and $3.7 million for the Casino Public School upgrade.

"What I want to see is a continuation of those millions of dollars flow into Clarence so we can get the services and infrastructure we haven't had after 16 years of Labor."

Mr Gulaptis was asked what he thought of Labor's candidate for Clarence, Peter Ellem.

"Four years ago when Peter was editor of The Examiner he gave me a wonderful endorsement which I used in my advertising brochure and I sincerely thank him for that," he said.

"I can't reciprocate but what I can tell Peter is that I'm still the same person and I'm committed to winning Clarence."

But being the "same person" is what Peter Ellem and Labor say they are worried about.

Mr Ellem told The Examiner Clarence families should be worried the Nationals had selected one of the region's strongest supporters of WorkChoices.

"Working people in Clarence should be concerned about Chris Gulaptis (because he) is the man who described WorkChoices as 'a positive move' - that is disgraceful," Mr Ellem said.

"Chris Gulaptis has been a long-time advocate for WorkChoices - which reduced wages and conditions for workers.

"The Nationals chose a candidate today who will do the bidding of the Liberal Party - a government which is no friend of working people."

Mr Ellem said the campaign would be "a very tough fight" but he was up for the challenge.

"I've lived in the Northern Rivers my whole life and have spent my professional career standing up for our area.

"On November 19, Clarence can send a message to Nationals leader Andrew Stoner and the Coalition Government."

The Nationals' Page electorate council chair Jeremy Challacombe said he wasn't surprised Mr Gulaptis won pre-selection.

"He has a high community profile, both as a (former) mayor of Maclean and Clarence Valley councillor," he said.

"He also stood for Page and did very well there. I think that reflected well - he is somebody who could win."

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