Austin eyes Mur­ray

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

Soon-to-be elected Mur­rumbidgee Coun­cil coun­cil­lor Austin Evans has an­nounced he is eye­ing the seat of Mur­ray fol­low­ing Adrian Pic­coli’s res­ig­na­tion at the week­end.

He will seek pre-se­lec­tion en­dorse­ment from The Na­tion­als to re­place the lo­cal mem­ber at a by-election, for which a date is still to be set.

Mr Evans will be automatically elected to Mur­rumbidgee Coun­cil this month, to represent Mur­rumbidgee East ward which only re­ceived the min­i­mum three nom­i­na­tions.

If suc­cess­ful in gain­ing pre-se­lec­tion for Mur­ray, Mr Evans said gov­ern­ment pol­icy would allow him to carry out both roles si­mul­ta­ne­ously for a por­tion of his term as coun­cil­lor.

‘‘Even­tu­ally, coun­cil would be a coun­cil­lor short (if I am suc­cess­ful),’’ Mr Evans said.

‘‘The leg­is­la­tion we op­er­ate un­der was changed a num­ber of years ago to allow a two year tran­si­tion pe­riod where you can be both a coun­cil­lor and a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment.

‘‘So that gives plenty of time to work out what’s go­ing on and to do it in a care­ful and con­sid­ered man­ner if re­quired.

‘‘I won’t be stand­ing down be­fore the coun­cil is formed on Septem­ber 21.

‘‘Given that I don’t know if I’ll be pre­s­e­lected for the Na­tional Party, I’ll just stay on coun­cil for the time be­ing,’’ Mr Evans said.

To con­cen­trate on gain­ing the state role, Mr Evans has con­firmed he will not be nom­i­nat­ing as mayor of the newly formed Mur­rumbidgee Coun­cil.

He has in­stead en­dorsed for­mer Jer­ilderie Shire mayor Ruth McRae for the top job. ‘‘I think Ruth would make a good mayor. ‘‘There were some things I would re­ally like to have dealt with in the Mur­rumbidgee coun­cil but if I don’t get through pre­s­e­lec­tion then I’ll be still here as a coun­cil­lor do­ing what I can for Mur­rumbidgee.’’

Speak­ing to the SOUTH­ERN RIVE­RINA NEWS on Mon­day, Mr Pic­coli said he had ac­cepted a full-time job at the Univer­sity of NSW.

He said while he will no longer be in Par­lia­ment, he reaf­firmed his com­mit­ment to as­sist­ing the lo­cal com­mu­nity with po­lit­i­cally based is­sues, in­clud­ing the push to have com­mer­cial tim­ber har­vest­ing re­turned to the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park.

‘‘They’ve been badly done by as an in­dus­try and I would like to do what I can to help the in­dus­try get back to what it was 100 years ago.’’

Mr Pic­coli’s new role will see him work to im­prove aca­demic out­comes for Aus­tralian stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly those in ru­ral ar­eas.

The for­mer ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter said he had been con­sid­er­ing leav­ing pol­i­tics since he was dropped from cabi­net in Jan­uary.

‘‘I apol­o­gise for caus­ing the by-election be­cause it is in­con­ve­nient, but I hope peo­ple un­der­stand I am putting my fam­ily ahead of my job for the first time in a long time. It’s a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity to keep my deep in­volve­ment in ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy and re­search,’’ he said.

Mr Evans said he was not sur­prised by Mr Pic­coli’s re­tire­ment, but said it was not ex­pected un­til the 2019 state election.

‘‘There was a gen­eral vibe that Adrian was go­ing to re­tire at the next election so his early an­nounce­ment has come as quite a shock.

‘‘It’s re­ally lousy tim­ing, there’s no ques­tion of that.

‘‘But with these op­por­tu­ni­ties, you don’t get to choose when they hap­pen,’’ Mr Evans said.

The SOUTH­ERN RIVE­RINA NEWS be­lieves two mem­bers of The Na­tion­als’ De­niliquin branch will also be seek­ing pre-se­lec­tion for the Mur­ray seat — the branch chair David Lan­dini and his vice chair Perin Davey.

Pre­vi­ous Mem­ber for Mur­ray chal­lenger and Grif­fith res­i­dent Brian Mills also con­firmed he will stand as an in­de­pen­dent,

The Shoot­ers Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party, which took the pre­vi­ously safe seat of Orange from The Na­tion­als in a by-election last year, has con­firmed it will stand a can­di­date.

Austin Evans

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