Having a serious ‘other’ option to consider in the Murray electorate by-election on October 14 presents the region with an opportunity not seen in a decade.
In 2007 — back when our local electorate was ‘Murray-Darling’ — we saw an enthusiastic and energetic National Party candidate John Williams campaigning against sitting member Peter Black of the Labor Party.
This grabbed Labor’s attention. So much so the then Premier Bob Carr and his cabinet even made a special visit to the local area.
What followed was a string of commitments from the government, the major carrot being a new police station for Deniliquin (which, ironically, is expected to be completed shortly after this by-election).
During this memorable 2007 campaign we saw ‘poker politics’ at play — ‘I’ll give you this and raise you this’. The police station, for example, was actually a Labor commitment which the Coalition was essentially ‘forced’ to commit to during the election campaign.
Mr Williams would go on to record a comfortable win in 2007.
However, the unfortunate reality was that Murray-Darling quickly became viewed as a safe seat by the Coalition, and the Labor Party.
A boundary redistribution at the most recent state election saw Deniliquin and district returned to the seat of Murray which is considered even ‘safer’ having been held by the National Party since 1984.
There is a general view that we have not been getting the attention we deserve because we have been in a very safe National Party seat.
Locals have been screaming for action on the decision to turn state forests into National Parks since 2010. Nothing has been done.
There are many locals who felt they weren’t heard during the local government amalgamation process that saw Deniliquin Council merged with Conargo Shire and Wakool Shire joined with Murray Shire.
There are still serious concerns over water policy, including state issues.
But the upcoming by-election presents an opportunity.
Off the back of its success last year in the seat of Orange, which it claimed from The Nationals in a shock result, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers has entered a candidate, Helen Dalton, in the race for Murray.
We believe that support of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers would give the alternative party 17 months to prove itself before the next state election in March 2019.
The Nationals have had many years to achieve results in key policy areas and it would be reasonable to judge these results as being below par.
It is generally accepted that a marginal electorate will get more attention from governments, and that is likely to be our status if Shooters, Fishers and Farmers win the by-election.
At this point, a Helen Dalton victory would seem the best result for our region’s future.