Mar­ginal call

Dal­ton wants Pre­mier’s prom­ise on po­lice sta­tion, tim­ber

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ZOE MCMAUGH

The De­niliquin dis­trict looks set to be cat­a­pulted into its strong­est po­lit­i­cal po­si­tion for decades in tomorrow’s Mur­ray by­elec­tion.

The re­sult is ex­pected to de­liver the re­gion into a mar­ginal seat, with a strong pos­si­bil­ity it could fall to the Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party.

In a Grif­fith news­pa­per poll, SFF can­di­date He­len Dal­ton has a com­mand­ing lead of The Na­tion­als’ Austin Evans, who is try­ing to re­place the re­cently re­tired Adrian Pic­coli.

The Na­tion­als say they ex­pect to win nar­rowly. If they don’t, they are likely to throw every­thing — in­clud­ing plenty of money — at the re­gion be­fore the next state elec­tion in March 2019 in an at­tempt to win it back.

Mrs Dal­ton, a farmer from Binya, east of Grif­fith, has for many years been a strong ad­vo­cate for farm­ing is­sues, in par­tic­u­lar bet­ter wa­ter pol­icy.

Her main op­po­nent, Mr Evans, is bat­tling a widely held view that his party has not done enough for the re­gion it has rep­re­sented for decades.

The De­niliquin dis­trict has been a safe Na­tion­als’ seat for more than 35 years.

The only time it was a no­tion­ally mar­ginal seat was fol­low­ing a boundary re­dis­tri­bu­tion that moved our re­gion into Mur­ray-Dar­ling in the lead-up to the 2007 state elec­tion. That seat was held by Coun­try La­bor’s Peter Black.

It led to La­bor and The Na­tion­als mak­ing a broad range of prom­ises in their re­spec­tive bids to win the seat, in­clud­ing the com­mit­ment of a new po­lice sta­tion which, a decade later, is fi­nally un­der con­struc­tion.

In the cur­rent cam­paign The Na­tion­als have again made gen­er­ous fund­ing com­mit­ments, and have rolled out more Min­is­te­rial vis­its in the last two months than we have seen since 2006-07.

Iron­i­cally, as the new sta­tion nears com­ple­tion, polic­ing is one of the is­sues Austin Evans has been forced to de­fend.

He has been un­able to quash spec­u­la­tion the Lo­cal Area Com­mand head­quar­ters will be re­lo­cated from De­niliquin af­ter the elec­tion in what NSW Po­lice is call­ing a ‘reengi­neer­ing’ of com­mand bound­aries.

The De­niliquin dis­trict has learned over the years that ‘re-en­gi­neer­ing’ and ‘re­struc­tur­ing’ gen­er­ally means re­lo­cat­ing lo­cal po­si­tions to larger re­gional cen­tres such as Al­bury and Wagga.

Mr Evans and Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian have both de­nied the re­view of Lo­cal Area Com­mands will lead to less po­lice num­bers in De­niliquin.

Mrs Bere­jik­lian was in De­niliquin last week; the only NSW Pre­mier to visit the area since Bob Carr was here dur­ing the 2007 cam­paign.

An­other polic­ing is­sue that has caused lo­cal angst over those 10 years is Hall­mark sta­tus for the De­niliquin Ute Muster.

In the 2007 cam­paign The Na­tion­als pledged to en­sure the Ute Muster would not have to pay for po­lice pres­ence, but this has never been de­liv­ered. As a con­se­quence, the lo­cal event has since paid nearly $1 mil­lion for tax­payer-funded po­lice ser­vices, with no re­prieve in sight. Ma­jor Syd­ney events, in­clud­ing the Gay and Les­bian Mardi Gras, do not pay for po­lice pres­ence.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment amal­ga­ma­tions, health, wa­ter pol­icy and re­turn­ing Na­tional Parks to sus­tain­able work­ing forests have been other key elec­tion top­ics.

The Na­tion­als may get a back­lash from res­i­dents of the for­mer Conargo Shire tomorrow af­ter mak­ing a com­mit­ment there would be no formed amal­ga­ma­tions, then last year forc­ing Conargo into a merger with De­niliquin Coun­cil that it ve­he­mently op­posed.

The in­cum­bent party has also been un­der fire for fail­ing to suf­fi­ciently pro­tect the re­gion and its farm­ers un­der the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan, and not do­ing enough to re­tain health ser­vices in smaller com­mu­ni­ties like De­niliquin.

On the forestry is­sue, the Coali­tion has failed to re­verse a 2010 La­bor de­ci­sion to turn lo­cal forests into Na­tional Parks. Mr Evans says he will sub­mit a Pri­vate Mem­ber’s Bill if elected, but it is un­likely to get Lib­eral Party sup­port.

De­spite the claims The Na­tion­als have not done enough to pro­tect lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, state leader John Bar­i­laro has said this week he be­lieves the Mur­ray by-elec­tion will be tight, “but I do be­lieve we’ll get there”.

Mr Evans this week said there would “al­ways be some peo­ple for whom noth­ing is ever enough, who say that we should have de­liv­ered more. What they need to un­der­stand is that re­gard­less of who is elected . . . it’s The Na­tion­als who will have to de­liver from gov­ern­ment”.

Mrs Dal­ton said ‘‘our cur­rent rep­re­sen­ta­tives have un­der­per­formed. We need to hold them to ac­count for sit­ting com­pla­cently on a per­ceived ‘safe seat’.’’

She needs to make up a mar­gin of more than 22 per cent to wres­tle Mur­ray from The Na­tion­als.

Such is He­len Dal­ton’s con­fi­dence Mur­ray vot­ers will send a mes­sage at the polls tomorrow, the Shoot­ers, Fish­ers & Farm­ers can­di­date has al­ready vowed to visit De­niliquin of­ten ‘‘when I am elected’’.

Mrs Dal­ton was in De­niliquin on Wed­nes­day for some last minute cam­paign­ing.

It in­cluded per­son­ally hand­ing out how to vote flyers at the De­niliquin Multi Arts Cen­tre in Cressy St — a pre-poll vot­ing cen­tre — along­side the party’s up­per house mem­ber Robert Brown.

De­niliquin and dis­trict has been a safe Coali­tion seat for decades, and Mrs Dal­ton said it has led to a fo­cus on this elec­torate that is ‘‘not good enough’’.

In a re­turn visit to De­niliquin since the by-elec­tion was called, Mrs Dal­ton this week said her main fo­cus was on re­tain­ing De­niliquin as the Po­lice Lo­cal Area Com­mand’s head­quar­ters and con­tin­u­ing the push to have sus­tain­able tim­ber har­vest­ing re­turned to the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park.

Mrs Dal­ton said sus­tain­able log­ging, in par­tic­u­lar, was a pas­sion.

It was one of the top­ics she ex­plored as a Nuffield Farm­ing Schol­ar­ships Trust scholar in 2007, as part of a broader en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship re­search project which called on gov­ern­ment pol­icy to en­sure eco­log­i­cal goods were also val­ued.

The schol­ar­ship al­lowed her to travel to Scot­land and the United States to re­search sus­tain­able tim­ber har­vest­ing.

Mrs Dal­ton this week con­demned NSW Pre­mier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian on fail­ing to com­mit to rev­ers­ing the Na­tional Park sta­tus.

She also slammed her for not dis­clos­ing de­tails of the up­com­ing Na­tive Forestry Bill 2017, which Mrs Dal­ton said will make har­vest­ing of pri­vate tim­ber stands more dif­fi­cult for com­mer­cial busi­nesses.

‘‘The Lib­eral Na­tion­als have hood­winked the com­mu­nity in De­niliquin and sur­round­ing ar­eas on the River Red Gums,’’ Mrs Dal­ton said.

‘‘While the Pre­mier, se­nior min­is­ters, and Na­tion­als’ party can­di­date Austin Evans were on a ‘fact find­ing’ tour in the re­gion they failed to dis­close the facts of the up­com­ing pri­vate Na­tive Forestry Bill.

‘‘What are they hid­ing from us? Since the Lib­eral Na­tion­als took power in 2011 the mes­sage from lo­cals has been clear: Re­verse the Na­tional Park sta­tus. Full stop.’’

Mrs Dal­ton also crit­i­cised the an­swer given by Pre­mier Bere­jik­lian to a ques­tion by Par­lia­men­tary col­league and Mem­ber for Orange Philip Donato dur­ing ques­tion time on Oc­to­ber 11, 2017.

‘‘The Pre­mier was given the op­por­tu­nity to un­equiv­o­cally sup­port re­turn­ing the River Red Gums back to forestry and sus­tain­able tim­ber har­vest­ing. She failed to do so,’’ she said.

‘‘Asked whether she would sup­port a Shoot­ers Fish­ers and Farm­ers’ Bill in the Up­per House to re­voke the lock-up of the red gums she ducked and weaved and re­fused to an­swer the ques­tion.’’

Mrs Dal­ton has also called on the NSW Gov­ern­ment and Po­lice Min­is­ter Troy Grant to un­equiv­o­cally rule out a spec­u­lated merger be­tween De­niliquin and Grif­fith Lo­cal Area Com­mands.

‘‘What is he wait­ing for?’’ she asked.

‘‘When Pre­mier Bere­jik­lian was in De­niliquin last week she made no such com­mit­ment, in­stead de­flect­ing to the Po­lice Com­mis­sioner.

‘‘The buck stops with the Po­lice Min­is­ter and I call on him to con­firm De­niliquin Po­lice Sta­tion will be the cen­tre of a stand-alone De­niliquin LAC.

‘‘The ‘re-en­gi­neer­ing’ process is code for cost cut­ting. My party does not sup­port any re­gional Po­lice LACs be­ing a part of a ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion and cost cut­ting process.

‘‘Po­lice merg­ers in re­gional ar­eas will mean a loss of back of­fice staff which will force front line po­lice back be­hind desks and less time fight­ing crime in the com­mu­nity.’’

Mrs Dal­ton said the NSW Gov­ern­ment seemed ‘‘sus­pi­ciously silent’’ on re­gional po­lice merg­ers ahead of tomorrow’s vote, de­spite an­nounc­ing some metropoli­tan merg­ers on Oc­to­ber 6.

Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party’s He­len Dal­ton and The Na­tion­als’ Austin Evans (cen­tre) flanked by In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates Brian Mills (left) and Peter Robin­son (right) in De­niliquin on Sun­day.

Shoot­ers, Fish­ers & Farm­ers NSW Mur­ray by-elec­tion can­di­date He­len Dal­ton and the party’s NSW up­per house mem­ber Robert Brown with the stock­pile of thin­ning trial har­vested tim­ber in the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park.

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