Phil Donato MP for Orange
A parliamentary advocate for shooters: Phil Donato (left) with his son Sean on a hunt in the NSW Central West

Phil Donato: Why I quit the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party

On 12th December 2022 I made the decision to resign from the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party. The decision was not an easy one, but one I had to make on my morals and principles.

As we all know, the behaviour of shooters and firearms owners is constantly under a microscope by the authorities and extreme left-wing political organisations seeking to use it as an excuse to prevent us from owning and using our firearms. So when the NSW Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party leader Mr Robert Borsak MLC made an inappropriate comment in NSW Parliament in September this year, which was captured on public recording, suggesting his female parliamentary colleague should be clocked, it brought the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party into disrepute. 

For decades our members have fought for the party and our cause to be treated with respect and recognised as a legitimate, professional political party whose elected members behave in a way so as to garner respect from our community’s leaders and members of the general public, to remove the stigma unfairly applied by general society to law-abiding firearms owners. 

When challenged by me and my fellow SFF colleagues regarding what we considered his unsavoury, misogynistic and threatening comment, we believed Mr Borsak failed to provide any appropriate reasoning for it other than to make excuses, and to this date has never retracted the comment or apologised for it. We felt this unrepentant behaviour left the professionalism of the party severely tarnished, along with our reputation, which was essential to providing shooters with a positive image and being given respectful political consideration and community standing. 

In the absence of an apology or public explanation by Mr Borsak, in order to salvage the party’s reputation and that of the people we were elected to represent, my colleagues and I required Mr Borsak step down as leader and as a Member of the Legislative Council. 

Mr Borsak refused to step down, so my colleague Roy Butler and I laid down an ultimatum to him; step down or we will resign from the party and continue our representation of our electorates and law-abiding shooters as independent members of parliament.

On 10 December 2022 the party held its NSW State Conference. The committee’s executive failed to hold Mr Borsak to account for his comment. The committee was re-elected and failed to demand the resignation of Mr Borsak. Within days of the meeting, both Roy Butler and I resigned from the party and announced we would continue our representation as independent MPs. 

This was not a decision I made lightly, but I am a man of integrity, strong ethical and moral conviction, and cannot be associated with a party which allows disreputable statements to be made that reflect poorly upon the very cohort the party was founded to protect and advocate for. 

I will ALWAYS stand up for law-abiding firearms owners, shooters and hunters. I will continue to represent and advocate for fellow shooters and hunters, fishers and farmers as a Member of Parliament, which will never change – because I am culturally one of you. 

I will continue to fight to protect our freedoms so that we can continue to enjoy our sports and traditions, just as our ancestors have.

I’ve been an avid shooter and hunter since I was a young whipper snapper, when I was introduced to this traditional sport and organic way of life by my late father, Luciano. Over the years I’ve dabbled in many different shooting disciplines, and I enjoyed handgun shooting throughout my policing career, too. 

Hunting has been a passion of mine, a pastime which has helped keep my freezers full and my family nourished with organic meat. My pet English pointer is always appreciative of our spoils from the bush, too. I’ve been proud to have introduced my sons to shooting, and we continue enjoy getting together for a shot or a hunt.

Until 2016, I was a police officer and has specialised as a police prosecutor.  I ran as a candidate for the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party at the 2016 by-election for the NSW state seat of Orange, and with a margin of just 55 votes I won the election, becoming the party’s first ever member elected to the lower house of any parliament in Australia.

Since then I’ve worked hard to protect and maintain our freedoms, standing up for the rights of fishos, farmers and shooters, and making sure the people living in rural and regional communities get their fair share of funding and support from government.

My dedicated team and I have worked tremendously hard, and I was effective in motivating the NSW Government to deliver close to half a billion dollars in relief to the drought-stricken communities across the entire state. 

The hard work was noticed by the community, and I managed to convert a 55-vote win in 2016 to a nearly 15,000-vote win at the 2019 general election, which no doubt contributed to the successful election of Roy Butler and Helen Dalton to the respective state seats of Barwon and Murray.  

Phil Donato MP

Independent Member for Orange

Related: Branch stacking accusations as SFF suffers members’ resignations
Related: Why nothing good will come from the SFF debacle, for the party, the MPs or shooters
Related: NSW Shooters Party in turmoil as MPs resign




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Phil Donato MP

Philip Donato is an Australian politician. He was elected as a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly in November 2016 for the state seat of Orange. Before this, he was a police officer and prosecutor. On election he was the first member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to represent a lower house seat but he resigned from the party of 12 December 2022 and became an independent. He has been a hunter and shooter since childhood.