During his 15 month tenure as Member for Murray following a narrow by-election win (in which The Nationals lost their safe seat mantel), Austin Evans has not delivered the results we should expect in the Deniliquin district.
At the same time, other parts of his electorate have fared well. While we can only manage a few million dollars for desperately needed hospital upgrades, in Griffith they have more than $200 million for a new hospital.
While Deniliquin would seem a logical centre for a Murray-Darling Basin Authority office, being at the heart of Basin Plan issues, it was last week announced for Griffith.
While we are supposed to be delighted with $400,000 for a truck stop, the headlines in our neighbouring Riverine Grazier at Hay two weeks ago screamed ‘$8.9 million for Hay’ and last week ‘$4 million TAFE for Hay in pre-election promise’. It’s no wonder the Grazier was effusive this week in its praise for Mr Evans.
Meanwhile, in Deniliquin we have had Mr Evans’ infamous ‘I don’t need Deni’ jibe, followed by claims (strongly denied) that he was misquoted.
What we haven’t had during the election campaign is a significant announcement that tells us The Nationals want our vote and are prepared to offer incentives to get it.
Why is this the case? It’s difficult to understand, but the most likely conclusion is that The Nationals believe they can hold onto the seat of Murray without getting widespread support from the Deniliquin district. Like Deniliquin, the Finley region has also missed out on significant pre-election ‘sweeteners’.
As we reported last Friday, only two of Edward River Council’s advocacy strategy priorities have been funded - the truck stop and an inadequate allocation to the hospital.
Water policy, airport upgrade, desperately needed education facilities and improved connectivity are, according to Mr Evans, “in the pipeline”. This was a conservative list of requests by council, which must be extremely disappointed with the results.
There are other issues outside the strategy which have also been ignored, including action to halt the massive police charges to the Deni Ute Muster which now total nearly $2 million (the Coalition told us nearly a decade ago this should be fixed), and incorrect NSW Government population analysis which adversely impacts the region’s development potential from government and non-government sectors. Then there was the decision to downgrade our police district, just months after a new $18 million station was opened. Mr Evans refused to fight the downgrade on our community’s behalf.
On the key issue of water policy, and efforts to achieve a better deal for local irrigators, the Government and our local politicians have failed us.
So is it any wonder The Nationals have had an adverse reaction from the Deniliquin district, which used to be the party’s heartland? Is it any wonder they lost every booth in Deniliquin at the 2017 by-election and will probably repeat this result on Saturday?
But despite the local results, Mr Evans will probably receive sufficient support in his home territory of the Murrumbidgee to retain his seat.
If this occurs, we implore him to work harder on our behalf to achieve the positive outcomes this region deserves.
Regardless of who wins Murray tomorrow, it is time for decisive action that helps restore our belief in government for everyone, not a select few.