Drum to face irrigator challenge at next election

By James Bennett

The federal seat of Nicholls is set to face a different challenge at the new election by frustrated Goulburn Murray irrigators who are planning to form a new political party.

Nicholls is just one of four seats that will be targeted by the political party being driven by Southern Riverina Irrigators chair and Barooga farmer Chris Brooks.

Neighbouring seat Mallee will join Nicholls as the second Victorian seat to be challenged by the yet-to-be-named party, while across the border Farrer (held by Environment Minister Sussan Ley) and Riverina (held by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack) will be in its sights.

Member for Nicholls Damian Drum said the decision by Mr Brooks to challenge did not make sense but he had every right to do so.

He said it was the Nationals that had been leading the way in Canberra, calling for better access to water for farmers.

“He (Brooks) knows it's the Liberals that are holding things up,” Mr Drum said.

“They (Liberals) are predominantly worried about the environmental changes that might do a bit to them in Adelaide.

“There are two outcomes that might happen if it (the new party) unseats us. One, it will put Labor in government and it's going to be worse off.

“Two, he'll weaken our position in parliament and we are the only party (Nationals) that are fighting for water reform.

“One party is genuinely trying to bring about change and that's the Nats. Yes, we haven't delivered yet but that's not from a lack of will or trying but the complexities,” Mr Drum said.

Mr Brooks said the challenge was based on the ongoing water debate surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin.

“It’s the northern basin versus the south and the north is winning because of its connections with The Nationals,’’ he said.

Mr Brooks has not ruled out running in one of the four seats.

Ms Ley said she would 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 scatter-gun approach to water politics, where the complexity of an issue is ignored by simply chasing someone to blame,’’ she said.

It will be the second election in a row in which Ms Ley will face a challenge after her lead was cut in half in 2020 by independent Kevin Mack.

The Coalition has experienced challenges in traditional blue belt seats across the region including big losses at the state level along the Murray River; Shepparton and Mildura in Victoria, both independently held, and Murray in NSW now held by Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.

The next federal election is expected to take place in 2022.

- with Deniliquin Pastoral Times