Nationals warn independents risk security

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Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce has warned Australia's national security will be at risk if more independent candidates win seats in the federal parliament.

Mr Joyce says hung parliaments held to ransom by independents would lead to "total and utter chaos" as he campaigned in a safe north Victorian coalition seat.

"If independents are the way to go, there are 151 seats in the lower house. Let's have 151 of them and let's take our nation to total and utter chaos," he told reporters in Shepparton.

"We'll have countries that wish us harm, laughing all the way to the battleships."

The seat of Nicholls - largely made up of the Greater Shepparton area - is held by retiring Nationals MP Damian Drum on a 20 per cent margin.

But a three-cornered contest has emerged with the Nationals' Sam Birrell and the Liberals' Steve Brooks threatening to split the coalition vote, while local councillor and independent Rob Priestly is running on contentious water policy in the region.

Mr Joyce urged voters to return a coalition member, saying the region would be better off having a voice at the negotiating table.

"If you are not in the government you are not at the table. You get to write letters," he said.

"Letters are wonderful. We write one to Father Christmas, or my kids do, every November. What's better is to actually be in close contact with the cabinet table, with the expenditure review committee, because that is how government works."

Nicholls has only ever been held by the coalition.

The deputy prime minister also implored independents to declare which side of politics they would support ahead of the election while campaigning alongside Mr Birrell and Mr Brooks in Shepparton on Tuesday.

"You've got to be straight with us about which side you actually back. You can either be playing for St Kilda or you can be playing for Collingwood, you can't be playing for both in the same game," he said.

Regional Education Minister Bridget McKenzie said politics was a "tough game" and she did not believe independents were up for the challenge.

"This is a tough game. It requires tough decisions and being part of a strong team that delivers, which is exactly what you've got with the Liberal-Nationals."

Senator McKenzie also spruiked a $19.5 million promise for new clinical health school facilities in the Greater Shepparton region if the Liberal-National coalition is re-elected in May.

The Victorian senator talked down the use of overseas workers to fill vacancies, with Goulburn Valley Health - where the announcement was made - struggling to recruit staff for 40 allied health positions.

"The greatest risk to healthcare provision for rural and regional Australians ... is the election of a Labor government that doesn't understand what we need out here and how we grow our own (healthcare workers)," she said.

But when pressed about the shortages, Senator McKenzie said the government wasn't ruling anything out despite her critique of Labor's policy.

"Everything's being looked at but you have to make sure ... when we do access workforce from overseas, they're appropriately skilled so we can confidently ensure Australians that health outcomes won't be at risk as a result of it," she said.

"There are some great examples particularly in Queensland, of getting people from offshore, putting them in care of Australians and bad things happening."

Mr Joyce also visited Mildura, in the federal seat of Mallee held by Nationals MP Anne Webster on a 15 per cent margin, to announce a $13.5 million adventure trail.

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