Wednesday, 6th July, 2016
By Andrew Robertson
Local National Party members are celebrating a federal election result that now sees Broken Hill firmly back in the grip of the party.
The last time Broken Hill was held by the Nationals at both state and federal levels was back in 2007 - a brief affair that ended when the city became part of the Liberal-held seat Farrer later that year.
Nine years later and residents again find themselves part of the familiar seat of Parkes and represented by a Nationals MP, this time the Dubbo-based Mark Coulton.
Former State MP John Williams - the Nationals’ Member for Murray-Darling between 2007 and 2015 - believes the outcome shows the resilience of the Nationals.
“It makes for an interesting scenario. I mean if you wanted to look at the big picture the National Party is probably the only party that didn’t lose any seats in the federal election and actually gained one,” he said.
“So it’s a fairly stable group of politicians and I think we’re fairly good at representing regional areas. I think the party as a whole has done a pretty good job of working with regional areas and getting them better outcomes.”
While the overall election result still hangs in the balance, Mr Williams agreed with Mr Coulton’s assessment that the issue of water played a part in his disappointing result locally.
He said voters were upset about the Menindee Lakes and Darling River, and looked to blame the party that was in power.
“This situation will right itself eventually, obviously it’s all about getting some inflows into the Darling River and obviously when there’s a major flow we’re going to see the lakes refill and things will be back to normal.
“Until that time I think the politicians are blamed for those circumstances.
“It’s one of those things, if you’re the incumbent government at the time you get blamed for circumstances beyond your control.”
Mr Williams, who noted that Labor candidate Kate Stewart also did not offer any solutions around the Darling, said it was largely an issue that was out of the government’s control.
“The unfortunate thing is I don’t think people understand that regardless of politicians the Murray Darling Basin Authority sits as an independent organisation.
“Their independence has been created so you can’t have political interference. It’s a bit like complaining to the judiciary.”
Meanwhile, Mr Williams believes Mr Coulton can overcome any mistrust or resentment and actually improve the Nationals vote in the city.
But first he had to earn the respect of locals.
“I think he will; I think given time he will, he’s a hard worker.
“This is what you find in most of the National electorates, the members have to work pretty hard.
“He’s renowned for living on the road. I think eventually people will start to trust in this guy and we might see a better outcome next time.”