There is a striking similarity with the Australian Labor Party and the Coalition at a local level following recent elections.
Both have had bruising, even embarrassing, results that indicate the need for a refocus and revitalisation.
Locally, this is more so with The Nationals than the Liberal Party. Although the Liberals performed poorly in this region at the federal election it retained the seat of Farrer with broad support across the electorate, whereas The Nationals suffered a shellacking at the March state election.
The question is: Will The Nationals at local level have the courage to admit their failings and take proactive steps to address them?
At the state election they ran the worst campaign this region has seen from a major party in many, many years.
When it inevitably ended in tears, with a swing of nearly 27 per cent against incumbent Austin Evans to his key challenger and now local member Helen Dalton, the blame game started.
Negative campaigning and the media (with the Pastoral Times singled out) were among those responsible for the loss, the public was told.
We disagree. The loss occurred due to a combination of: (a) the poor campaign; (b) the party’s political representatives had lost the drive or ability to fight adequately for the needs of our region.
This stretched back to the forced local government amalgamations, which we were previously promised would not occur. Next minute, there was the forced merger of Deniliquin Council and Conargo Shire Council to form Edward River Council, and despite many protests the local member at the time, Adrian Piccoli, refused to fight it on behalf of his community.
In areas of health and education our local Nationals’ members have failed to ensure our infrastructure keeps pace with modern day needs. And it is perhaps best if we do not even get started on the appalling efforts to protect the region from changes to water policy.
Along the way, the local branch of The Nationals failed to identify the glaring fact that if the party wanted ongoing support, its efforts to advocate on behalf of its constituents needed a massive improvement.
During the state election it failed to adequately support incumbent member Austin Evans, seemingly prepared to let him ‘hang out to dry’. And that is what happened.
We believe the local Nationals have also lost touch with the grass roots of its community. Its ‘rusted on’ members continue to defend poor party policy or effort and denigrate community members who are prepared to fight for change.
Going forward, they have a choice. It is to continue along the same path and forget about local parliamentary representation for many years, or accept the failings, just like the electorate has done, and address them.