Deputy Premier John Barilaro has warned the government about disillusioned young men in the country. Picture: Justin Lloyd.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has warned the government about disillusioned young men in the country. Picture: Justin Lloyd.

Nats: Disillusioned country men will turn on minor parties

AN entire generation of young NSW dads is angry and disillusioned and will turf the government out if more is not done to address their pain.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro­ sounded the warning shot on the government's weaknesses in regional NSW, saying a class of "working poor" still feels "anxious" despite the booming economy and infrastructure progress.

As the government prepares to fight a crucial by-election in Wagga - a litmus test just seven months from the election - we can reveal men aged 24-35 are prepared to abandon major parties right across regional NSW.

The data, contained in Nationals research, indicates men feel disempowered and disillusioned by radical hits to their cost of living and feel forgotten by government.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Barilaro warned the government's success in job creation and infrastructure building is not translating for a generation living in "pain" in the regions.

"These men feel disempowered," Mr Barilaro said.

"I don't want to sound like a misogynist but a lot of these men still believe they are the breadwinner of the household. And that feels under attack­ - with cost of living, their family budget is under stress, there's questions around job security and they can't do what they want for their kids. They are becoming disillusioned."

He described it as a "class of working poor" and said the government intended to do more for them: "We the government­ talk about this period of prosperity, un­employment at 4.9 per cent and no deficit, but there is this class of working poor and men are feeling it - that's why they'll look to One Nation or the Shooters."

Mr Barilaro (right) did not believe the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers could win another lower house seat but suspected minor parties could eat away at the government's voter base, with seats being lost.

"(These parties) are talking about the stuff these men are interested in - we've lost them or we're losing them and that's a problem for us," Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Barilaro, who said he felt great "hopelessness" and "despair" when witnessing the pain in parts of regional NSW, believed he only had three full terms of politics in him, meaning the next election would likely be his last.

"Does this game break you down eventually? Yes it does. And that's why I don't think you can be a long-term politician any more … Third term will be it, three terms that's plenty, absolutely."

He said the government has injected major funding into the regions, particularly after losing the 2016 Orange by-election: "We've unlocked projects like we've never seen before. It's not a lack of trying or funding or projects.

"All that's fantastic but we're not cutting through. The message that keeps coming back to me is we know you guys can build roads and infrastructure, we know you can but we expect governments to build that. It's the social stuff that no government has been able to fix."

He flagged ice, mental health and youth unemployment in the bush as major problems and said he felt "despair" over Grafton's suicide battle: "We've got to give them hope or a vision for tomorrow and that's the thing we're working to."

Mr Barilaro intends to do his best to effect change, particularly in job security­ and mental health: "If you can't fix it today with the resources we have you'll never fix it."