Member for Murray Helen Dalton has taken aim at successive NSW Governments for their ‘‘neglect of regional communities’’.
On only her second official day in office, Mrs Dalton expressed in her maiden speech on Wednesday that the treatment of the Murray electorate in particular was deplorable.
She made it clear that she will be focusing on lifting the health outcomes for those in her electorate, and highlighted the city country divide.
‘‘A new third world country is emerging within our wealthy, privileged borders,’’ she said.
‘‘Twenty years ago, people in the Murray electorate lived longer than those in Sydney. Today we die, on average, five years earlier. We live to 80 on average, while Sydneysiders live until 85, according to NSW Health data.
‘‘And there’s no doubt our health is suffering.’’
She also reiterated that water is the lifeblood in the bush and ‘‘if we have it we thrive, if we don’t, we die’’.
‘‘Irrigators, who have fed Australians for a century, are being sent broke. Water prices are soaring, food industries are shrinking, local food companies are being sold offshore or shut down, regional towns are dying and many farmers are quitting agriculture for good.
‘‘It’s these forgotten Australians who have put me in parliament today.’’
Mrs Dalton’s first speech had a major focus on irrigated agriculture.
She emphasised that the Murray electorate is worth $7 to $10 billion at the farm gate, and maybe five times that when you consider the flow on effects.
Mrs Dalton also highlighted the ability of government to deliver when they wanted to.
‘‘While country communities have waited decades for new hospitals, the New South Wales Government built a 270km, $500 million pipeline from Wentworth to Broken Hill that nobody wanted in just two years. The business case — kept secret. An environmental impact statement — not needed.’’
The former school teacher also took aim at the track history on education, raising issues on educational outcomes and the failed merger of the Griffith High Schools.
‘‘There is a very good reason why I am here. All is not well in the bush,’’ she said.
‘‘The March election was history in the making with the Murray electorate, the agricultural heartland of New South Wales, rusting off from traditional voting patterns.
‘‘As agriculture declines, jobs disappear and our young people move to the big cities. Governments then use declining populations as an excuse to further strip away our services — health, education, water and infrastructure.
‘‘Rural regional communities have too often borne the brunt of poor government policy and we have always gone along, sometimes reluctantly, with inappropriate policy. Not anymore. I intend to put Murray on the map.’’