Damian Drum is first Federal Member for Nicholls

By Charmayne Allison

Damian Drum has wiped the floor with his opponents to become the first Federal Member for Nicholls after his seat of Murray disappeared in a radical redistribution.

New boundaries and new population hubs had no impact. While there was a 12.6 per cent swing against him, it hardly dented his 22.8 per cent margin.

While the win was no surprise, even Mr Drum admitted he had not expected it to be so definitive.

With more than 80 per cent of votes counted, he sits on almost 70 per cent on a two-party preferred basis, with Labor hopeful Bill Lodwick out of touch at just 30 per cent.

And with the water debate unlikely to be silenced in the wake of the election, Mr Drum knows it is time to get back to business.

‘‘We have been saved an almighty disaster by the Coalition being returned (to government),’’ he said.

‘‘Now is the opportunity to make a real impact.

‘‘And the people in this electorate need me to keep the fight going.’’

This fight, of course, centres on water.

Asked what he was proudest of from his first term in Canberra and what he plans to do in the coming one, Mr Drum maintained the mantra — water, water, water.

‘‘It’s the constant issue that needs addressing,’’ he said.

‘‘And 90 per cent of the problems hounding our farmers are state water laws.’’

For Mr Drum, that was another key word — state.

And a question he was quick to deflect responsibility for the handling of the local water crisis — and the wider Murray-Darling Basin Plan — onto the stakeholder states.

‘‘The plans for managing the basin can only be changed with the full agreement of the four states involved in the plan ... as well as the federal water minister,’’ he said.

‘‘(The states) need to enter the conversation but have just put their heads in the sand.’’

Mr Drum said water policy was among his top achievements from his first term.

‘‘Where we can impact water laws we will and we have,’’ he said.

But when asked about pausing the plan, Mr Drum insisted it would do more harm than good.

‘‘If we pause the plan, we stop work on the 605 which means even more water has to go out of ag,’’ he said.

‘‘Politically, there is so much pressure to make the plan work. That’s the reality at the moment.

‘‘We have Opposition, we have the Greens who will continually put up motions and legislation to make the plan worse, to take more water out of agriculture.’’

A review into the impacts of the basin plan and an ACCC investigation into the water market has started.

Mr Drum said the reviews were the only way further positive change could be achieved for desperate local farmers.

‘‘There are so many groups out there who are going to try to hang on to the water currently sitting in the environmental pool,’’ he said.

‘‘What the people from pause-the-plan really want is a review and we’ve given them that. Then, they want a rewrite.

‘‘To do a rewrite means we need to do the review first and we have to make sure we come up with the right recommendations from the review.

‘‘And that is — too much water has already left agriculture.’’