Opinion

Local member change is only the start of the fight

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

It is not unusual for governments to highlight their economic credentials and excellent budget position before an election, then claim afterwards that it is not in such great shape after all.

As such it should not come as a surprise that the NSW Government last week — just a month after being re-elected — claimed its forecast surplus had been cut in half.

We suspect this is basically a ploy to argue against all and sundry who had their eyes on part of the $4.3 billion surplus which had been spruiked, as it’s hard to believe the government was not well aware its GST take would be down and stamp duty returns reduced by the housing price slump.

This cannot be used as an excuse to stop the increased spending which is desperately needed in our region.

As Premier Berejiklian was told during her recent visit to Deniliquin, there are serious infrastructure deficiencies in key areas that require urgent attention.

At the top of the list, as we highlight in the first of a series today, is a significant funding injection for Deniliquin Hospital.

Local doctor, Marion Magee, explained the downgrading of our hospital to the Premier just over a week ago. Her story paints an unfortunate picture of what can happen in a rural community when bureaucrats from afar have control of the purse-strings.

In the hospital’s case, this has been coupled with weak political representation from individuals who have not fought hard enough for our cause.

The Murrumbidgee Local Health District has a lot to answer for, as has a government which allows millions of its health dollars to transfer over the border to Victoria each year with not so much as a whimper to rectify this anomaly.

But the hospital is just the starting point.

In Edward River Council’s advocacy strategy it also highlights the lack of attention which has been received by Deniliquin High School for many years. As a consequence, the school’s population has declined and too many local students head south for their education.

Deniliquin must get back on the NSW Government’s radar. We have supported the Coalition for decades, but its support for our basic needs in important service areas has not been reciprocated.

There is a risk the government will continue to neglect Deniliquin, this time because we do not have a local member which is in its party. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Deniliquin needs action, and there is no better place to start than at the hospital and high school.

Premier Berejiklian, during the election campaign, said she would build or upgrade 29 hospitals during this term. It is hard to believe there is a case more deserving than Deniliquin Hospital.

We believe in this region the Coalition has a choice over the next four years. It can continue along the path of failing to provide basic infrastructure which it should not have allowed to deteriorate to its present state. Or it can acknowledge past failings and take positive steps to redress them, in the hope of rebuilding our confidence and giving it a chance to win the seat back.

If it wants a chance of getting Murray back in the Coalition fold in 2023, the government must take the latter option.