Fighting for Farrer
Kevin Mack (pictured) says the Southern Riverina will be a key region for his campaign at the upcoming federal election.
The independent candidate is hoping to win one of the safest Liberal seats in the country held by Member for Farrer Sussan Ley.
The Albury City Council Mayor travelled across the Farrer electorate last week.
Mr Mack told the SOUTHERN RIVERINA NEWS he’s aware of the issues faced by local people in Finley and Berrigan, particularly losing important government services which had a flow on effect to health.
‘‘There’s been a distinct withdrawal from government agencies in the last 10 years that has impacted on the economy of those towns in terms of middle class structure.
‘‘A lot of that withdrawal has been because of water department and management, including the centralisation of those departments, which is a direct contradiction to what they said they’re doing at a government level.
‘‘The issue is that there’s an ageing population across the towns and they’re being left without adequate health services.
‘‘You have families, both young and old, travelling long distances to get a minimum quality of health; whether it’s physical health or mental health, that’s not okay.
‘‘We have a significant mental health problem in many regions of Australia, let alone the Southern Riverina.
‘‘There’s a problem with young people and adults, and a lot of that has to do with the mismanagement of water and assets, and government promises that are made but not kept.’’
Mr Mack said there are a whole cluster of issues for Finley, Berrigan, Tocumwal and Jerilderie which ‘‘like the rest of Farrer is largely forgotten’’.
He said mismanagement of water through the Murray Darling Basin Plan has severely impacted all towns across the Southern Riverina.
‘‘The plan started in 2010 and at the time we had great rain after the millennium drought; 2016 we had a flood and now we’ve had two years of dry weather.
‘‘The plan has been directly conflicted with the climate and it has demonstrated not to be working.
‘‘You have people in those communities seeing water running past their gate and they’re being told they can’t use it.
‘‘They’re paying to access water they can’t use, they’re putting crops in they can’t water so this whole argument of ‘we have to give it back to the environment’ is false because the environmentalists say it’s not working.
‘‘The triple bottom line of the plan does not work, it’s not suited to the socialeconomic and environmental needs of the Basin.
‘‘One thing we need to remember is in 1936 that dam was launched at Lake Hume as an irrigation miracle.
‘‘What changed in the last 80 years? What has happened to our community when there’s Dartmouth Dam, Hume Dam and the Snowy Hydro system.
‘‘We need to provide equal service to all triple bottom line issues but right now the $8 billion that has been spent on the plan has achieved nothing.
‘‘I love having a good plan but it’s not a good plan,’’ Mr Mack said.
Being elected is an uphill battle for Mr Mack, with Sussan Ley claiming 70 per cent of the vote at the 2016 Federal election, which was her biggest margin since winning the seat from the Nationals in 2001 after Tim Fischer retired.
Mr Mack said disdain towards the sitting government and political parties can be an advantage for him at the federal election.
‘‘There’s a lot of discussion about the rise of independents but I believe it’s based more around the rise of dissatisfaction in the existing system of government.
‘‘It has nothing to do with the people, it has more to do with the voters saying they’ve had enough of what they’re getting.
‘‘We’re paying too much for everything and what’s their solution; we’ll tax more.
‘‘Farming is a difficult game but it’s something they believe in, so when you see the water running past the gate you think ‘well, what the hell is this all about’.
‘‘They need their water and they need it now. If we don’t get a water allocation promised by an incumbent government in NSW, you will not get it next year.
‘‘The only way you will start seeing change in policy settings and attitude of government is to draw the line in the sand and make it independent.’’
Mr Mack said as the chair of Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation (RAMJO) he has a strong relationship with Berrigan Shire and Murrumbidgee Council mayors and general managers.
He said with his constant talks with local councils he is across all strategic issues.
‘‘I get on extremely well with all of them. I regard every mayor and GM on RAMJO as my friend; they are as frustrated as the next person.
‘‘Local government is the first tier of government that listens. You may not think they do, but they do.
‘‘Matty Hannan (Berrigan Shire mayor) is hurting and I’ve told him we need to get people on the ground and start raising money to make sure we nail the Liberal Party to the cross,’’ Mr Mack said.