Anyone But Nats
Saturday, 5th January, 2019
By Craig Brealey
By their actions shall you judge them, and the Nationals stand condemned for what they have done to the Darling River, says a former candidate for the local seat of Barwon.
Rohan Boehm stood as an independent in the 2015 State elections at which the Nationals’ candidate was returned, but he said they do not deserve another chance.
Although the retired agribusiness consultant from Narrabri is not in the running this time, he is doing his utmost to see the Nats suffer in the seats they hold in NSW.
Mr Boehm is the co-founder of the new “Anyone But Nats” campaign which, he said, will back candidates who pledge to put their constituents’ interests before those of big businesses such as coal seam gas companies and “water thieves”.
Anyone But Nats is a registered third party campaigner under the Electoral Act, is not affiliated to any political party, nor will it provide financial help to candidates.
It proposes to bring about change by sponsoring public forums at which people can question the candidates.
The forums are being held in Mudgee, Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri and in Broken Hill, in mid-February.
Barwon is the state’s largest electorate and has been held by the Nationals and its predecessor, the Country Party, for 68 years but Mr Boehm said he had the feeling their time was up.
“It’s part of my aim this time to really support the excellent candidates,” he said. “Hopefully we can secure a change of regime.
“We believe the Nationals have, over many decades, completely ignored their constituents and are supporting water thieves, as you would know out there.
“Water was an issue of importance four years ago, and now it’s an absolutely core issue.”
It was not only in the West Darling that people were suffering; over-extraction had become a problem further east, he said.
“Even now, Walgett is running out of water. There are four big rivers in the area, including the Barwon, Balonne and Castlereach, but it is still out of water.
“We sheet the blame home totally to the very poor management of our resources by the Nationals and their terrible policy enactment for this most precious resource.
“The Darling River is as close to death as it can possible get.
“We have commissioned a whole body of new work on the Darling and its tributaries and it will show the degree to which the Nationals have been at the core on the poor governance of water to the detriment of the communities that live on the rivers
“It is a massive dereliction of duty.”
Mr Boehm said the days of farmers and other country people voting National might be over because the party had neglected the bush towns.
“The Nationals are in government but I have not heard any angst from them about how much money is being spent in Sydney, rather than in the regions.
“There has always been political argy-bargy but we’re past that point now.
“It is absolutely necessary to put the Nationals last and to vote for a useful candidate.”
The Nationals are running a new candidate in Barwon who is being challenged by Labor, The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ party, the Greens and an independent from Wilcannia.
“I have had talks with the candidates and they are all bloody good people,” Mr Boehm said.
“The Nationals annoy people a few months before an election and throw around some small change - and it is small change - and hope this will bribe voters so they get another four-year term.
“Usually they don’t show much consideration about where the money’s being spent, what segment of the community it hands it to, or even the geography of the area.
“They are not focussed on our economy nor do they understand the social costs of having no water, which is the most important thing, bar nothing else.
“They just throw their hands up and say ‘Here, have a pipeline’”.
When he was a candidate in 2015, Mr Boehm declared his opposition to the Murray River pipeline, saying it would “change the entire river” and destroy the Menindee Lakes.
“The Darling is as dry as a lime-burner’s boot,” he said yesterday. “It has been desecrated.
“The lakes and rivers of the west are of absolute importance and people have lived on them all their lives. Then this crowd comes out and desecrates them.
“I believe they have been reckless and they are going to pay the price.”
Mr Boehm said public discussion during the 2015 election had been “pretty willing” and he expected it to be moreso at next month’s forum.
“I chair the community forums and give every (candidate) a solid go. People can ask them the most important questions of the day and decide who gets their nod.
“Without dialogue, you are not properly informed.”