Nationals launch election campaign for the seat of Shepparton

By Myles Peterson

Local National Party faithful gathered at Peter Schwarz’ office on the corner of High and Wyndham Sts yesterday for a campaign launch.

National Party Victorian leader Peter Walsh opened the event telling the crowd regaining the seat of Shepparton was critical to the Coalition’s path to victory at the November 24 poll.

Mr Walsh made frequent attacks on Shepparton’s incumbent, independent Suzanna Sheed, who seized the seat from the National Party last election, homing in on her voting record in parliament.

‘‘Suzanna needs to be held to account over her voting record. She has effectively become Labor-lite. Supporting the Andrews Government’s CFA bill — I think CFA volunteers from this region should be appalled at that decision,’’ he said.

‘‘And from an area that has a strong horticultural industry, supporting the Andrews’ labour-hire bill, again, is in contradiction to the industries in this area.’’

Ms Sheed responded to the criticisms, saying she made a commitment to work with the government of the day in the interests of Shepparton.

‘‘My vote has never been needed to pass legislation and I have never done a deal to extract the record funding I have achieved for our community, nor will I shy away from my voting record,’’ she said.

‘‘I am confident the people of Shepparton District expect integrity in the companies providing labour hire services to local farms and this legislation will ensure that the dodgy practices highlighted by the recent inquiry are outlawed and more easily punishable.’’

The CFA legislation ended volunteers being used as a political football, according to Ms Sheed.

The legislation also enabled CFA members to seek compensation for cancers caused by firefighting and protected the organisation from any future efforts to privatise it, she said.

Mr Schwarz was in an upbeat mood, speaking after the speeches about the highs and lows of campaigning.

‘‘Campaigns go up and down and we’re back up on a good plain. We’ll continue to ramp it up,’’ he said.

In late October, a targeted leak to the media led to accusations Mr Schwarz had pocketed money earmarked for irrigation work. The accusation incorrectly claimed the money was intended for drought proofing.

Goulburn Murray Water, whose documents had been leaked, refuted the allegations, but not before the story went national, drawing comment from Mr Schwarz’ federal party colleagues.

The News understands Mr Schwarz has sought legal advice over the allegations and GM-W is conducting an investigation into how the 2016 documents were passed to the media.