EDITORIAL OPINION: Election a referendum on Nationals’ track record

This weekend, someone new will be entrusted with the job of fighting for the MIA in NSW parliament – with Helen Dalton and Austin Evans the clear favourites. 

The winner will have achieved something truly remarkable, in an election shaping as a referendum on the National Party’s record of delivering in Murray

If Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Helen Dalton wins, she will break the National Party’s 33-year-long hold on the region. 

It will be a rare lower house success for a minor party in an Australian electoral system that very much favours the major players.

If the Nationals Austin Evans triumphs, he will have defied an anti-government wave, and entrenched his party as permanent representatives of the Murray electorate. 

If the Nationals can’t be beaten in a by-election, when there’s no risk of a Labor government – there’s not a cat in hell’s chance they will lose Murray in a general election, at least not in the foreseeable future. 

Both candidates seem happy to make this election a referendum on the National Party’s track record on what they have achieved for the electorate. 

Mr Evans has pointed to recent major funding commitments by the NSW Government on hospitals, schools and infrastructure. 

He has promised to hold the government to account, and argued that a close relationship with the NSW premier and ministers will help him lobby for continued funding for Murray. 

Ms Dalton argues that it’s too little, too late, and the Nationals have neglected the Murray electorate over a longer timeframe. 

She has said the Nationals fear of losing the by-election is the only reason Murray is now getting funding promises.

The candidates have therefore presented a clear choice for voters. 

Important issues like health, education, transport and infrastructure will be front and centre in people’s minds when they enter the ballot box on Saturday. 

The is a good thing – as all too often elections get sidetracked by wedge issues that have little impact of people’s lives. 

And the robust, competitive campaign, while overly negative at times, has brought much attention to the region. 

Politicians may never be able to ignore us again, and we won’t let them. 

Related: OPINION: Will the pollies still love us after the by-election?