Opinion: Helen Dalton needs more than water to unseat the Nationals, as campaign takes familiar turn.

An impressive showing against Nationals stalwart Adrian Piccoli as an Independent last time around meant MIA local Helen Dalton was always going to be a sought-after candidate for all major parties heading into the Murray by-election.

Intrepid outsiders Shooters, Fishers and Farmers beat the Nationals for Dalton’s commitment to the ballot paper, which was blatantly spruiked at her candidacy announcement on Thursday morning.

There was small snippets of what we can expect from the Shooters in terms of hard policy, but more clues as to what sort tactics the political newcomers may employ over the next six weeks.

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Dalton’s first public appearance as a Shooters candidate saw her steadfast in her rhetoric - ‘the Nats have under performed for a long time’, ‘we can only do better’.

It suggests this campaign will be run in a similar vein to Labor’s approach at the 2007 federal election.

Change from the long-time Howard Government for the sake of change was a significant factor in the ultimately successful campaign, but the jury is out whether such a message will work this time around.

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Then there was the Murray campaign’s first murmurings of policy substance.

The Shooters say the $35 million pledge towards Griffith Base Hospital (GBH) upgrade is an allocation for a feasibility study without a specific timeline, and promised to demand immediate action.

It will be interesting to see the details in Ms Dalton’s GBH plans.

She also immediately distanced herself and her party away from the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, and threw her support behind an independent investigation into the body’s performance.

But while health and education have been the buzz topics in and around the Murray electorate for most of 2017, the debate may stray away to other matters over the next six weeks.

Ms Dalton’s niche is irrigation, and there are already signs the Shooters will attempt to stick with what they know, and surround as much of their conversation around water, irrigation and agriculture.

A large percentage of voters have a vested interest in the agricultural industry, but many will be on the fence until they’re convinced the Shooters candidate can talk the talk in other policy areas. 

All eyes now turn to The Nats and their own pending candidate announcement.