In news that surprised precisely no-one, Helen Dalton was named as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in Griffith this week.
Out past the Great Dividing Range credible challengers to the Nationals are few and far between, and it’s led to complacency from the Nats.
Phil Donato’s win in Orange was a breath of fresh air, as was independent Joe McGirr’s win in Wagga.
While Helen Dalton and Matthew Stadtmiller in Cootamundra weren’t successful in 2017 – their campaigns have helped make sure the Nationals haven’t taken their electorates for granted.
And really, in a democracy, what more can you ask for?
This is exactly how they’re supposed to work – with people putting forward their ideas, or their promises, and we the voters get to decide.
Obviously it works better when there’s more candidates and let’s be honest, Country Labor and the Greens run in our electorate but they haven’t provided a serious option for voters. Helen Dalton and the Shooters Party proved otherwise in 2017 when they pushed Austin Evans to rely on preferences instead of first preference votes.
The scare the Shooters Party gave the Nationals has lead to an pile of money being funneled into regional areas.
To say it’s too little, too late, or that it’s just a ‘stunt’, would ignore the fact that much of the investment is actually needed.
Nobody wants to see Griffith Base Hospital languish away in its current state, and another $189 million commitment isn’t exactly unwelcome – the residents of this city and the district don’t need to wait 30 years for a better hospital, as they did in Wagga.
Although, clearly the Nationals haven’t quite learned the lessons of the past because they’ve let the Liberals charge ahead with their ridiculous Sydney stadia projects.
That money would be better spent out west providing the basic services, like education, health and transport, not to mention issues around the ongoing drought and water entitlements.
Perhaps the Nationals won’t learn until another regional seat in their former heartland turns away from the party.
Then again perhaps the threat of losing to Helen Dalton and the Shooters will be enough for them – and their Coalition partners – to realise they can’t afford to take voters west of the divide for granted.