Farrer MP is on notice over water, says SRI

Farrer votes 2019: Sussan Ley to meet with NSW water minister Melinda Pavey


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"I was dreading being a local member with a Labor government"

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair, Barooga mixed farmer, Chris Brooks says he'd support an independent in the seat of Farrer again, "in a heartbeat."

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The SRI set up the Voices for Farrer campaign, throwing its weight behind independent candidate, Albury mayor Kevin Mack, against incumbent Liberal MP Sussan Ley

SRI is made up of five landholder associations whose members are irrigators, farming within the Murray Irrigation Limited footprint, in the southern Riverina of NSW.

It represents more than 1,600 water users producing food and fibre.

Ms Ley was returned to parliament, but with a swing of nearly seven per cent against her.

On a two party preferred basis, late yesterday she had recorded 61 per cent of the vote, to Mr Mack's 39pc.

FIGHTING ON: Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Kevin Mack says the fight is now on to ensure promises made during the Federal election are kept.

FIGHTING ON: Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Kevin Mack says the fight is now on to ensure promises made during the Federal election are kept.

"That's politics," Mr Brooks said.

"I think there was an obvious drive towards the Liberals, which is a good thing, as we are all Liberal supporters, at the end of the day," Mr Brooks said.

"But it wasn't so good for Farrer.

"We lost, but I still think my favorite saying is that Farrer won, because she (Sussan Ley) has to work for the electorate."

He said Ms Ley made a lot of promises.

"I hope she delivers on them all," he said.

Among the promises made during the campaign were hospital upgrades, particularly in Deniliquin, an additional 14 telecommunications towers and an inquiry into water sharing and what Mr Brooks called Murray-Darling Basin Plan failures.

"She went to a lot of areas she had never been to before and was told by a lot of people they were not happy."

Mr Brooks, who threw financial support and SRI's weight behind Mr Mack, said it was shame farmers had to go to that level to get the message across to politicians, who were supposed to be working for them.

"I have no reservations about what we did - I have been inundated with calls, from people making contributions.

"They were happy they made the effort but disappointed Mr Mack didn't win."

Mr Brooks said if irrigators ended up getting improvements for the people of Farrer, that would be good.

'We can only hope and pray the coalition, at least, got the message people aren't happy with the water situation.

"It's not over, it's not fixed, it's a long way from being resolved and Ms Ley is aware it is an issue," he said.

"I think we got 33,000 votes, and that's a pretty clear message a third of the electorate is not happy with what is going on - they want something done about water."

Mr Brooks said Voices for Farrer would remain active, to make sure Ms Ley delivered.

"It's a long fight, this game," he said.

He said the group would continue with its push to Pause the Plan, alongside its legal action against the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

SRI has filed a class action in the NSW supreme court, seeking $750million in damages from the MDBA, alleging the organisation's negligence had led to significant financial losses for the region's landholders.

Read more: MDBA running Murray at "hideous levels", irrigators claim

THREE MORE YEARS: Liberal Sussan Ley will be the Farrer MP for another term after a resounding victory in the federal election on Saturday. Picture: MARK JESSER

THREE MORE YEARS: Liberal Sussan Ley will be the Farrer MP for another term after a resounding victory in the federal election on Saturday. Picture: MARK JESSER

Top priority

Ms Ley said at the top of her list of short-term priorities was ensuring southern Riverina irrigators receive a water allocation in coming months.

Read more: Water dominates the campaign in the safe Liberal seat of Farrer

She was set to meet NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro and water minister Melinda Pavey for talks focusing on water in the southern basin, which has been the major issue in the election campaign.

"We can work closely together now and I think that is going to work well for irrigators," Ms Ley said.

"The short-term issue is how do we get an allocation for next water year which starts in July.

"The national spotlight on water and this region has really helped.

"I was dreading being a local member with a Labor government and we would have been having a different conversation with Mel Pavey this week.

"It would have been 'can you think about exiting the plan?', but it is not going to be that conversation thankfully.

"It was going to be the worst of all possible worlds and all we could do in the face of a Labor buyback."

READ MORE: Ms Ley's major rival in the election, independent Kevin Mack, campaigned hard on water issues including key commitments of calling for a Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin water management and a pause to the plan.

By late on Monday, Mr Mack had 21pc of the primary vote, which is up on the 11pc Deniliquin-based independent Louise Burge attracted in 2010 when water was again a major focus of the campaign.

Mr Mack won the four polling booths in Deniliquin including the prepoll centre, but his wins weren't by huge margins.

Finley, Barooga and Jerilderie went to Ms Ley and Berrigan and Blighty were won by Mr Mack.

The majority of those centres are in the state seat of Murray which was lost by the National Party at the recent NSW election to Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate, Helen Dalton.

Further north in Griffith, Ms Ley also performed well.

She won all booths with Labor candidate Kieran Drabsch, who is from Griffith, also out-polling Mr Mack on primary votes.

Mr Drabsch has polled 14.48pc of the primary vote to date, which is short of the 18pc disendorsed Labor candidate Christian Kunde scored at last election.

The Greens vote is down from 8.22pc at the last election to 4.52pc for their candidate Dean Moss.

Ms Ley also won all booths in Corowa and Leeton.

The informal vote in Farrer was nudging 10pc compared to 4.2pc in neighbouring Indi.

NO FOLLOW THROUGH

Albury mayor Kevin Mack's popularity at the most recent local government elections couldn't be replicated at his first tilt at federal politics.

Mr Mack's high vote in the 2016 council election enabled him to have two other ticket members, John Stuchbery and Murray King, join him, but across the 13 booths in his hometown he was shunned by voters.

Liberal Sussan Ley completed a clean-sweep of booths with the biggest victory on primary votes coming at the Albury prepoll centre where she defeated Mr Mack 6611 to 3351.

In many cases Ms Ley went close to or did double Mr Mack's primary vote with the two Thurgoona booths a case in point.

His sweet spot for votes was in the irrigation area of Deniliquin, but in order to pull off a Cathy McGowan-style victory he needed Albury to fall his way.

Mr Mack congratulated Ms Ley on her victory.

"We definitely brought the spotlight to Farrer, and I am proud of what our small team has been able to achieve," Mr Mack said.

"We gave it our best shot, but now I will concentrate on returning to my role as Albury mayor.

"I will continue to do all I can working with council to deliver on projects to make our great city of Albury an even better place to live and work."

An immediate priority will be a start on the major works associated with the Lavington Sportsground redevelopment with the project dragged into the election campaign following the collapse of the contractor appointed to complete the initial stage and associated financial fallout to local sub-contractors.

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