Actions speak louder than words.
Last week the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro spent two days in Deniliquin listening to a vast range of local concerns.
He told us he was “here to listen” and there is no doubt he received the message loud and clear that many people are unhappy with the treatment this region is receiving from his Government.
Mr Barilaro was provided with information across a range of areas - from water to timber, airport upgrade to false government population predictions, health to the unfair police charges at the Ute Muster which his colleagues in the past have promised to address but never done so.
That issue is symptomatic of why there is community disenchantment with The Nationals; it should be relatively simple to resolve, but only results in one broken political promise after another.
To his credit, Mr Barilaro acknowledged last week that the Deniliquin district has had a rough run from government decision-making over many years and this needs to change.
He admitted he is “no water expert”, but understands water is the most pressing issue for this and many other regions in NSW. Mr Barilaro responded positively to the Regional Strategy Group’s suggestion of a $750 million fund to underpin irrigation reliability, and in particular to a feasibility study to progress the idea.
He also agreed that discussions are needed with the South Australian Government around the massive losses through evaporation and water pouring out to sea in that state.
The timber industry was also the centre of discussion and the Deputy Premier, with personal experience in this area, wants to look at possible solutions.
But with all these concerns there appears to be one major challenge: His government is dominated by ‘green leaning’ Liberals who have little idea what happens outside Sydney, nor any desire to learn or take proactive steps to fix pressing issues.
With an election only five months away it would be best for their own sake if these Coalition partners decided to take a greater interest and support the common-sense solutions which exist, instead of constantly pandering to city-based marginal interests, especially the environmental lobby sector.
If they don’t, the Coalition could suffer a historic loss in the seat of Murray at the March election.
Mr Barilaro and his local state member Austin Evans were left in no doubt last week that enough is enough. By his own admission, Mr Barilaro accepts this region needs more government attention.
We need action, not words, and nor do we need more hollow election promises. If it is not forthcoming before we go to the polls in March the consequences for The Nationals could be dire.