The tragedy in Christchurch could have an influence on who represents the Murray electorate for the next four years.
The Coalition is running a campaign against the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, suggesting gun laws will be weakened if it gets the balance of power.
The party’s Murray candidate, Helen Dalton, only has to achieve a swing of little more than three per cent to win the seat.
At the by-election she narrowly lost in October 2017 her chances were adversely impacted by a similar Coalition campaign in the week before voting following a mass shooting in the United States. It had the support of former Prime Minister John Howard and Deputy PM Tim Fischer.
Local farming advocates have thrown their support behind Mrs Dalton, calling for change to overcome serious issues with water policy.
There is widespread concern about the lack of effort to protect the NSW Murray, with Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Chris Brooks this week taking the unusual step of publicly endorsing Mrs Dalton.
He said this was ‘‘traditionally not something that would be done by someone in my position’’, but added ‘‘the situation is so desperate that as a region we have no choice but to advocate for change that may provide us with better outcomes’’.
‘‘We have tried working with The Nationals and impressing on their representatives at local, state and federal level the need to work with us to develop solutions to the present crisis. Unfortunately, for what appears to be political reasons, our attempts have achieved nothing.
‘‘Without change we will continue to fall victim to poor water policy decisions which favour the top end of the system,’’ Mr Brooks said.
He said Helen Dalton understands the Southern Basin and ‘‘has given a commitment to work on our behalf to achieve positive change’’.
The SRI’s deputy chair, Wakool’s Darcy Hare, has defended the SFF gun policy.
He said ‘‘there’s actually no difference between the Nationals’ gun policies and SFF’s gun policies’’.
‘‘In fact the SFFP would like to see the introduction of legislation to enforce mandatory minimum sentences for serious crimes committed with a firearm, to be served consecutively, not concurrently and will campaign for tougher measures and sentencing of illegal firearms trading and introduce mandatory sentencing for Commonwealth firearms offences.’’
Also advocating for change is Deniliquin businessman Lester Wheatley.
He told the Pastoral Times The Nationals have failed country NSW, and that the Coalition needs a ‘‘wake up call’’.
‘‘I don’t mind declaring that I am a fully paid up member of the National Party, but I am exceptionally disappointed in the way the party in general has represented the constituents in this region,’’ Mr Wheatley said.
‘‘I feel that Austin Evans has failed to be forceful in advocating on issues that impact on us.
‘‘I have stopped short on telling people who to vote for, but I do think it needs to be someone who can strongly advocate totally for us, particularly on water.
‘‘There are other big issues like health and education, but without a solution to the crisis over irrigation, without water, there will be no future.’’
In a last ditch bid to be re-elected Mr Evans said he hoped that once heightened tensions surrounding the election dissipate the efforts he has made for the electorate will come more to the fore.
He said if re-elected, his approach to politics and the electorate would not change too much.
‘‘I’ve got a history of working with people and I don’t burn bridges — I will work with everyone,’’ he said.
‘‘I will keep being open and available, but it is a challenge to represent such a large electorate.’’
Having personally manned pre-polling booths throughout the electorate, including Deniliquin, Mr Evans said he feels there is enough overall support to see him re-elected.
‘‘There is obviously opposition, but that’s democracy. As I have gone around talking to people, I get the feeling I am doing okay.
‘‘I do think I will be elected, but then every candidate would say that.’’
Mr Evans said he does not agree with his party’s use of the Christchurch tragedy to try and win votes, but said he did support its stance on maintaining strong gun laws.
‘‘I do support gun laws, and not weakening of those laws,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the Shooters did make some changes to their policy after the by-election, and I think now all parties are in the same vein that they don’t want to see a weakening.’’
Mrs Dalton said there is ‘‘no way I support the weakening of gun laws’’.
‘‘Our laws are very tight and we don’t want to change that — the laws we have are appropriate for our society,’’ she said.
‘‘I think that our health system is more of a threat to us than guns are.’’
Mrs Dalton said the desire for change is even stronger at this election than at the 2017 by-election, and said it stems from ‘‘35 years of neglect and yet people vote the same way and expect change’’.
‘‘People want change because things are grim,’’ she said.
‘‘Murray is on zero allocation and looking at next season we’re also expecting little water. And the record on natural resource management in deplorable.
‘‘There is also the denigration of the health system and hospitals — our services have been stripped.
‘‘A lot of the consequences of the Coalition’s policies could have been avoided if they had listened.
‘‘If we can hold the vote and get a hung parliament, there will be at least five or six independents who can hold the balance of power, and finally we will have genuine representation.’’