The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) is in crisis just three months before the NSW state election, with their only two remaining Lower House MPs resigning from the party.
Member for Orange Phil Donato and member for the Western NSW Barwon electorate, which comprises almost half the land area of the state, Roy Butler, both announced they quit the SFF today (12 December).
They will remain in parliament and contest the 2023 state election as independents.
This follows Riverina-based MP Helen Dalton, the Member for Murray, quitting the same party and becoming an independent in March this year.
In announcing his decision to quit the party, Mr Donato cited party leader Robert Borsak’s “unsavoury, misogynistic and physically threatening comment in parliament regarding [Mrs Dalton]” as a key reason for his decision.
In September, Mr Borsak was caught on video allegedly telling the president of the NSW Upper House he “should have got up and clocked her [Mrs Dalton]”.
“For 22 years as a police officer, I stood up to protect women from threats of violence, intimidation and mistreatment,” Mr Donato said.
“I’m a man of integrity. I will never compromise my principles. I’ll always call out wrong-doing and stand up for what is right – no matter who it involves.
“Mr Borsak was completely unrepentant about his statement, and when he failed to adequately address the issue, Roy Butler and I laid down the ultimatum – step down from his position or we leave the party to go as independent MPs.”
The SFF held its Annual General Meeting on Saturday, 10 December, in Singleton. A motion to remove Robert Borsak as party leader and replace him with Mr Butler was narrowly defeated, resulting in both Mr Butler and Mr Donato leaving the party just two days later.
“The party chose to circle its wagons around the leader, and when I raised the issue with Mr Borsak’s hand-picked executive team at the AGM, I asked them regarding Mr Borsak’s threatening comment in parliament – do you find Mr Borsak’s comment acceptable behaviour? Following a lengthy pause, a committee member replied that the issue had not been discussed amongst the committee and, therefore, they had no comment about it,” Mr Donato said
“The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party response to this serious issue was grossly inadequate and failed to hold Mr Borsak accountable for his inexcusable comments towards a woman and fellow MP, rendering my continued association with a party which promotes prehistoric behaviour completely untenable.”
An email account calling itself ‘Shooters Party Insider’ circulated emails to media last week to undermine Mr Borsak. It included a leaked video from a private meeting in which Mr Borsak calls former premier Gladys Berejiklian “big nose”. The anonymous emailer said it “confirms Mr Borsak’s misogynistic behaviour”.
Mr Borsak has long been a controversial MP. In 2016, he boasted about shooting an elephant and eating its ear in a speech in NSW Parliament. He has also posted a photo of himself on social media posing with a dead elephant he shot.
Mr Donato said he had concerns for the future of the party as long as Mr Borsak was calling the shots.
“I think it’s very bleak, to be honest,” he explained.
“We tried to get that message across to the executive and to the members that if Roy and I both decided to leave the party, you would have essentially lost three Lower House members in space for two years.
“We did not want it to come to this.”
Original Article published by Chris Roe on Region Riverina.