THE defeat of The Nationals' incumbent in the New South Wales electorate of Murray represents a major victory for food producers and has sent shockwaves across the conservative political landscape.The region's farmers responded to a call to arms by a major irrigators' group and turned their backs on The Nationals in droves in response to claims that the Coalition had ignored the plight of farming communities.
Their support for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate, Helen Dalton, has sent a sobering message to candidates in the Federal border electorates of Farrer in New South Wales and Mallee and Murray in Victoria leading to the next election due in May.
Ms Dalton gained 39.23 per cent of the primary vote in toppling The Nationals' incumbent Austin Evans, who polled 35.21 per cent after only being elected in 2017 at a by-election following the resignation of Adrian Piccoli.
Major regional farming body, Southern Riverina Irrigators, took the controversial decision to formally endorse Ms Dalton, a former teacher and Griffith farmer. She ran as an independent in 2015, gaining about 18 per cent of the vote, then came within 3.5 per cent of stealing the seat from The Nationals at the 2017 by-election as a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate.
Wakool farmer, David Landini, standing as an independent candidate, almost doubled Mr Evans' votes at his home-town polling booth and gained reasonable support at Barham, Deniliquin, and Moulamein.
Southern Riverina Irrigators said that the election of Ms Dalton in the 107,362.20 square-kilometre electorate was the first stage in a plan to rebuild the Southern Riverina as the nation's greatest food producing region.
Chairman, Chris Brooks said that her success represents "stage one accomplished" and now attention would focus on the Federal seat of Farrer, held by the Liberals' Sussan Ley.
"We took the unusual step of endorsing Helen for two reasons – firstly, her immense knowledge of the complex water issue, and secondly the ongoing refusal of New South Wales Coalition members, including the incumbent Member for Murray, to take decisive steps to fix obvious problems," he said.
Mr Brooks said that he would take all reasonable steps to gain his sole objective to get more affordable and reliable water for the hard-working farmers he represents.
"It has been taken away by poor water policy and poor water management, and this has to be reversed," he said.
"I believed we had to start playing the political game. We weren't going to get results if we were not part of that game. It has been obvious for a long time that the Basin Plan is about politics, not the environment. To fix the plan we have to be involved in the politics."