What does the future hold for The Nationals and, in particular, their Member for Murray Austin Evans?
He believes he can retain his seat at next month’s state election without winning local booths, and perhaps he is right.
But his performance, and that of the party, must surely come under extreme scrutiny.
They have failed this region in key policy areas, yet don’t seem to recognise this fact, and therefore are not taking positive remedial action.
Mr Evans’ poor handling of the latest controversy around his comment that ‘he doesn’t need Deniliquin’ is a reflection of a broader inability to handle difficult situations. Whether it’s water policy, health, policing or timber harvesting he simply can’t get runs on the board for Deniliquin and district.
And instead of claims that he has been “misquoted” and “misrepresented”, now even going as far as questioning the honesty of respected citizens with “I did not make the statement I was alleged to have made”, Mr Evans should have accepted his medicine and reinforced the comment he made last week that he “highlighted that you don’t need to win all Deni booths to be elected”.
It should be made clear that Mr Evans is correct when he says he can win his seat without winning local booths. However, we do not believe that is the key issue.
As we reported on Friday, some of the achievements that Mr Evans claims when defending his performance are bizarre and must further bring into question whether he is the right person to represent us in state parliament.
This community wants strong and effective representation that can influence key decision-makers and achieve positive outcomes, especially in major policy areas.
In the statement he released last week Mr Evans took credit for, inter alia, the new Deniliquin Police Station and the renal dialysis unit at Deniliquin Hospital. We should remind him that the former had been built and the latter was approved with a temporary unit operating by the time he was elected. The renal dialysis unit was also only achieved after a concerted community campaign which lacked the support of the government’s Murrumbidgee Local Health District.
Mr Evans, in his statement, made no other mention of health and steered well clear of talking about water, which is not surprising. After all, look at the record of The Nationals in this area and it does not paint a pretty picture.
They have been complicit in water policy that is having a devastating impact across our region, especially in some of the smaller communities, but continue to ignore solutions that could ease or even reverse the economic decline. What happened to the feasibility study into using funds from the Snowy Hydro sale to underpin regional water allocations, which was supported by Mr Evans and his leader John Barilaro four months ago?
And while bucket-loads of money can be found for other hospitals, why does Deniliquin Hospital continue to languish?
We need serious action on water and health and if Mr Evans cannot deliver in the next month he should not expect local support.
The question must be asked: Why should we vote for Austin Evans when all we are likely to get is more of the same?
At the moment we believe the answer is straight forward: We shouldn’t.
Mr Evans and The Nationals have just over a month to convince us we should change our minds.