Voters show discontent

By Country News

Despite winning the seat of Farrer at the federal election, voters showed Sussan Ley their anger about water policy at the voting booth.

Ms Ley lost a number of booths in key irrigation towns to independent challenger Kevin Mack.

Mr Mack campaigned heavily on water policy and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and was backed by a number of prominent local groups, including Voices for Farrer.

Voices for Farrer was formed with the aim of ‘‘doing politics differently’’, and last Saturday’s election results would not change that, according to its chair Chris Brooks.

Mr Brooks said Voices for Farrer would continue to function despite its preferred and endorsed independent candidate Kevin Mack being soundly out-polled by incumbent Sussan Ley.

‘‘We may have lost the election, but Farrer is still a winner in that we were able to cut the margin — if the Coalition keep winning the seat by 20 per cent, they don’t have to do anything,’’ Mr Brooks said.

At a local level, the results show there is still a widespread dissatisfaction with the political ‘safe seat’ representation.

Ms Ley lost every booth in Deniliquin to Mr Mack, as well as Blighty, Mathoura, Moulamein and Wakool.

The swing against her at those individual polls ranged from 25 per cent to 34 per cent.

Mr Mack also polled higher at the Deniliquin prepoll voting centre, with 1278 votes to Ms Ley’s 1240.

Despite the local results, the support for Ms Ley in other parts of the electorate was too strong for Mr Mack to compete with.

In the seat of Nicholls concern over Labor’s water policy may have swung extra votes in Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum’s favour, as he recorded a number of healthy gains across the electorate.

A 38 per cent swing towards Mr Drum was registered in the small town of St James, while Rushworth, Girgarre, Seymour, Undera, Kyabram and Nagambie all registered swings above 20 per cent.

Bamawm and Katandra West were the only booths to register any significant swing away from Mr Drum, with swings of six per cent and 1.28 per cent respectively.

Most booths registered swings towards the Nationals of between 12 and 35 per cent.

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said while some ‘‘large chunks of skin’’ were taken off him by irrigators during the campaign, many had expressed a ‘‘sense of relief’’ that Labor had not won the election.

He intended to share the region’s concerns with Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville when she visited the Goulburn Valley next month, and said many irrigator concerns were state-based.

‘‘What we have at the moment is that states are still in control. A royal commission may get to the bottom of the damage and detriment, but we still won’t have the green light to make the changes we want,’’ Mr Drum said.

‘‘The only way we can change the plan is the same way we changed the northern basin plan — with an independent review.’’

He was also hopeful the pain communities have felt as a result of water recovery is clearly expressed in an upcoming review of the socio-economic impacts of the basin plan.