Opinion

Drum worth another term

By Shepparton News

A federal Labor government — which seems likely after tomorrow’s election — has significant risks for the voters of Nicholls.

Chief among them is Labor’s attitude to water issues, exemplified by the hard line against irrigators taken by Tony Burke, formerly responsible for agriculture and water in the Gillard government.

He may be the next water minister too.

While we are pleased Mr Burke has agreed to visit the region following the election, we don’t expect much from him. His main interest — and that of federal Labor generally — is to secure swinging seats in South Australia.

Mr Burke has long taken the view that, if irrigators willingly sell their water to the government (irrespective of the pressures that may have compelled them to sell) then it satisfies the no socio-economic impact test under the Water Act.

He has no apparent interest in, or sympathy for, irrigation communities in Victoria, which have done all the heavy lifting under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

We have lost half our irrigation water — and Mr Burke wants more.

Meanwhile, the federal coalition has strapped on its unity boots these past four weeks and Scott Morrison has done a creditable job in presenting the coalition as a viable alternative.

Tony Abbott has kept his mouth shut too, but voters are unlikely to forget the rabble of the past six years and the coalition’s failure to govern effectively.

Voters will punish the coalition for this, as they should. For the longer term, the Liberal Party needs a serious wake-up call: Australians gravitate to the sensible centre, a fair go — and they just wish politicians would stop thinking of themselves and occasionally work across the chamber for the good of the country.

Our federal member, Damian Drum, is everything his coalition is not: hard-working, focused on his electorate, civil and refreshingly frank.

For the first year of the current term, the National Party appeared to be the adults in the room as the Liberals tore themselves apart with conservatives and progressives fighting each other.

Then Barnaby Joyce wandered off the reservation, as did Andrew Broad and we liked the way Mr Drum expressed his disappointment in both of them.

Among it all, Mr Drum has secured some big wins for this electorate in water policy, for our hospital, for higher education, for our roads, our new art gallery, for local industries.

He has been effective in securing access to ministers and their advisers for local interest groups and advocating on behalf of the region.

And while he might well spend the next few years on the Opposition benches, Mr Drum’s respectful and congenial manner will have him working as effectively as any coalition member can with a Labor government to represent the interests of the voters of Nicholls.

In Opposition or not, Mr Drum has earned another term.