Nationals’ efforts welcome, but commitments needed

October 10, 2017

Credit where credit’s due.

Three weeks ago, in our Opinion, we endorsed a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ Party win in the Murray by-election on October 14 as the ‘‘best result for our region’s future’’.

We did so on the basis there was a general view the region has not been getting the attention we deserve because we have been in a very safe Nationals seat. That view hasn’t changed.

However, the attention The Nationals’ candidate Austin Evans has given to Deniliquin and district in the past three weeks is hard to ignore, and in fact should be applauded.

His local presence, to this point, has outweighed and outshone his only serious threat at the voting booths, SFF’s Helen Dalton.

Mr Evans has focused on three key local issues — the timber industry shutdown, ongoing water policy issues, and support for our iconic annual Ute Muster — and he has done so arm-in-arm with the political heavyweights who can seriously impact these issues.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Minister for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole toured local forests last Tuesday, Deputy Premier John Barilaro attended the Chairman’s Reception at the Ute Muster, and the Premier and Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair met with key irrigation industry stakeholders last week.

It is this activity and attention that may win back those people who had decided ‘enough is enough’ in regards to The Nationals representing our interests, although it is a sad reality that Sydney’s renewed interest in these local issues may not have been forthcoming if not for the growing popularity of the SFF.

But it’s not wise to seek change for the sake of change. At the least, a big swing to a marginal seat looms likely. And we still believe this is Mrs Dalton’s election to lose, and the result could well hinge on Deniliquin and the wider district’s vote.

This is a two-horse race, and neither party is past the post.

To this point we believe The Nationals have out-campaigned the SFF in the local area, however the incumbent is yet to make a ‘game changer’ commitment, whether it be gaining the Premier’s backing to reverse the National Parks decision which effectively shut down the multi-million dollar timber industry, or perhaps a $5 million pledge towards the Deniliquin air freight hub proposal.

Without some clear commitments Mr Evans’ efforts may have all been for nothing.

Stop gap politicking is not enough, and the Nationals’ attention, should it remain the Murray electorate representative, must extend beyond this Saturday’s by-election. If not, there is a state election in 17 months’ time.

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