Farrer could be the surprise seat in federal election

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

With the election campaign now in full swing the national focus is primarily on marginal seats.

Leaders Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten will concentrate on these areas, trying to win over the electorate for the May 18 poll.

We certainly will not see Mr Shorten, and it is extremely unlikely Mr Morrison will venture to this part of the world, traditionally regarded as safe Coalition territory.

But is it? Could Farrer be the surprise packet of the 2019 federal election?

If the recent state election is used as a guide, incumbent Sussan Ley may need every bit of the 20 per cent margin she enjoys, as it is only a few weeks ago that The Nationals’ Austin Evans suffered a massive 27 per cent swing to lose Murray.

Political pundits will argue that Ms Ley should retain a strong personal vote in Albury, which is crucial as it is also the major population centre in the electorate. However, to counter that her key challenger, Kevin Mack, is a highly regarded local mayor who is likely to take a significant Albury vote away from Ms Ley.

And again using the state election as a guide, Ms Ley can expect a significant backlash from the farming communities and rural towns which have given her such strong support for nearly two decades.

She gained an indication of the unprecedented anger at the present political system when she attended a Basin Plan rally in Albury last Tuesday.

Farmers are furious, and rightly so. Many who would previously not have contemplated voting anything other than Liberal or Nationals are deserting their traditional pattern in droves, looking for anyone who will stand up and offer what they consider to be a fair go.

Like the state election in Murray, outside Albury the key issue in the federal election will be water policy, in particular the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. There is no doubt it continues to fail our communities and Ms Ley - like her state counterpart Mr Evans - has been unable to influence change.

Unfortunately there are those in more senior positions within the Coalition who appear to care more for their political careers and toeing the party line, than accepting that to deliver a common-sense and balanced Basin Plan it needs some adjustments.

From a local perspective the most disappointing approach has been from The Nationals who, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions, are failing their traditional heartland. Perhaps they believe sacrificing our region is the price which has to be paid for supporting city-based Liberals and shoring up coastal seats.

Whatever the case in this election they are a burden to Ms Ley, rather than providing the support she so desperately needs. Their refusal to keep their promise to deliver a balanced Basin Plan, or in fact make any attempt to protect this region, may yet claim another victim.