A new political party, led by Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Chris Brooks of Barooga, wants to take on the Morrison Government at the next federal election.
Mr Brooks led an unsuccessful campaign to try and unseat Member for Farrer Sussan Ley at last year’s election through Albury Mayor Kevin Mack.
Although he has not decided on a name for the party, Mr Brooks is committed to challenging Liberal and National Party members in seats affected by water policy.
He says communities are ‘‘sick to death’’ of water mismanagement and the southern part of the Murray-Darling Basin is suffering at the hands of the Northern Basin.
‘‘It’s the Northern Basin versus the south and the north is winning because of its connections with The Nationals,’’ Mr Brooks said.
He wants to target four seats: Farrer; Riverina (held by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack); Nicholls in the Shepparton region (held by The Nationals’ Damian Drum); and Mallee (held by The Nationals’ Anne Webster).
Mr Brooks said his candidates would be campaigning on water, and that he was prepared to run if necessary.
He said due to poor water management ‘‘there are plenty of businesses in each area that are absolutely on their knees’’.
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley said she will continue to work with communities to address water security issues.
‘‘Chris’ perspective has always been political so at least that is out in the open. I think people are tired of his scattergun approach to water politics, where the complexity of an issue is ignored by simply chasing someone to blame,’’ she said.
‘‘Water is an incredibly important issue for all our community and the focus should be on practical long term solutions, not on promises of accessing water that isn’t there; the Keelty report made that clear.
‘‘My focus remains to work with all parts of the electorate to address water security issues, and to help drive meaningful outcomes through calm and common sense advocacy between the Commonwealth and states.’’
At the 2019 federal election, Independent Kevin Mack with the backing of Mr Brooks achieved a substantial swing against Ms Ley but was well short of winning the seat.
This was in contrast to the March 2019 state election, where the Shooters Fishers and Farmers’ Party candidate Helen Dalton defeated Nationals’ incumbent Austin Evans.
There has been dissatisfaction, especially in farming circles, at what many consider to be lack of action by the Coalition to fix water policy and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Since the federal election there has also been concern expressed that Ms Ley has not done enough to help farmers get access to more water.
Irrigators in the NSW Murray have faced two years of zero allocation, before the announcement this month of a three per cent allocation.
Mr Brooks has also led a $1.5 billion class action against the Murray-Darling Basin Authority accusing it of water mismanagement.