Battle for Murray
A battle royale is looming for the marginal seat of Murray in a state government election that is less than nine months away.
The Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ Party fired the first campaign shots on Monday night, when its state parliamentary leader Robert Brown joined likely candidate Helen Dalton for a ‘meet and greet’ session in Deniliquin.
SFF refuses to announce Mrs Dalton as its candidate, although this appears a mere formality after she came close to toppling The Nationals’ Austin Evans in last October’s Murray by-election, which followed the resignation of long-time National Adrian Piccoli.
Meanwhile, Mr Evans still has to win preselection for The Nationals, which will be decided on August 18.
Normally this would be a seamless process, however the Pastoral Times is aware of community disquiet around what some believe is a lack of action from Mr Evans since his election. Under his watch the Deniliquin Police Station has been down- graded at the same time a new $18 million building was being finished, and he has failed to get action on a pre-election promise to rejuvenate the local timber industry.
After her gathering with local residents on Monday night, Mrs Dalton said she had identified areas which need to be addressed. These include more doctors with a broader skills range, investment in Deniliquin Hospital infrastructure, an airport capable of sustaining air freight services, addressing mobile blackspots, waiving Higher Education Scheme fees for young professionals starting their careers in rural areas and increased access to community transport services.
Describing herself as the SFF “Murray spokesperson”, Mrs Dalton said the longawaited return of commercial timber harvesting to the Murray Valley National Park and drought were also key discussion points on Monday night, as was the MurrayDarling Basin Plan.
After some closed meetings on Monday, Mrs Dalton and Mr Brown met with a handful of district landholders and voters at the public forum.
Mr Evans confirmed yesterday that he would be seeking re-election as Member for Murray in March 2019, with the first step being pre-selection in Hay on August 18.
‘‘I have enjoyed the last nine months, although it has been busy, with a lot of time spent on the road my new car has just clocked over 40,000 kilometres since November.
‘‘I’ve been working on a number of things with people, and I am happy and enthusiastic to keep doing that.’’
Going into the next election, Mr Evans said the top priorities are ‘‘all the same things’’ he went into last year’s by-election with.
‘‘There’s the red gum, improvement in water management and the Basin Plan, its sustainable diversion limits and the need for more transparency.
‘‘There’s also the bull bars issue and there’s also the Griffith Hospital, not that it has much bearing on Deniliquin specifical- ly, but we also need improvements in health in general across the electorate.
‘‘We (the NSW Government) did some work on the Deniliquin renal unit, but there are other things that need to be addressed.
‘‘Deniliquin has a particular problem with doctors, and we’re working with the federal and state governments on how we can improve doctor numbers.
‘‘This is ongoing, and no doubt will stretch out beyond the election.’’
Mr Evans said re-election would also give him more time to meet his by-election promise to have commercial timber harvesting in the Murray Valley National Park, although he said ‘‘hopefully that will be done before the election’’.