At the end of 2001, farmers at the NSW-Victoria border feared the worst. Bad crashes during the late 1990s gave way to a terrible season, and irrigation canals that followed the arid outback roads both sides of the Murray River dried up. The millennium drought, which was said to be the worst of the European settlement, occurred.
This is what Sussan Ley saw through the window of his Millard caravan as she left Albury for Deniliquin and followed her in the pursuit of a seat in the House of Representatives. Weekly, in her fight for Farrera, a voter held by citizens, and his beloved leader Tim Fischer, for 17 years, she had an average of 2000 kilometers on the road.
But Fischer retired and drought came. So Ley kept talking about water – and he won. Since then, he has been building a solid base and is now sitting on an almost insurmountable 20-point range.
Almost insurmountable. Eighteen years later, with her electorate dry again and a new candidate in the city, the same circumstance that the turbocompressive Ley campaign in 2001 could help end her hold. Her confessor, the charming two-year-old mayor of Albury, Kevin Mack, acknowledges and does not close the water: with deep community roots and deeper pockets (thanks to support from the Voices for Farrer) Mack managed to dramatically tighten opinion polls. next month's survey.
Farrer is often described as an Australian food bowl and is a vast voter who follows the NSW border with Victoria, who voted for the coalition without success because it was created in 1949. However, political discontent is on all sides. In his west, the overlapping Murray state residence recently fell on Shooters, Fishers and Farmers through a 26-point swing.. In some heart irrigation buildings, the swing was over 50 points. To the south, federal voters Indians left Liberals in favor of the trailblazing independent Cathy McGowan. And to its northwest, the state residence of Wagg Wagg changed independent in 2018 after more than 60 years with the Liberal Party.
In the midst of the drought that the Australian food bowl once hurt and angry, Farrer proved to be a litmus test of government water woes: one of Liberal's safest seats could fall on an independent candidate running a furious campaign based on the coalition's water policy attacks ?
When I meet Ley in her election office, off the Albury Highway and around the corner from Mack's home base, she points out two controversial points: first of all, that no one has done more for water than she does.
"I fight water on the water every day of my political life. And I faced people who were angry with water before. We had independent water in 2010. I remember using the words" Don't use Murray as a political football "alone in 2001 – I think the shows for my representation of this waterworks were in the foreground and center, ”he says.
Ley is careful not to blame the drought completely for the vicious sentiment of the voters and to admit that more could be done. For example, she says she should work harder on her recent unsuccessful coercion and let the farmers borrow environmentally-restricted water during the dry season.
Ley's second point is mathematical. In a huge voter like Farrer – she's bigger than South Korea – The width of communities is so great that a lot of local questions can come into play during the elections. It is said that while the nation's people lost Murray with a 26-point swing, the adjacent Albury mansion, whose name city is 27% of the Farrer population, brought a small swing towards his liberal member.
I am a liberal voter, but I will definitely change my voice. There are just a few things about Sussan and I don't think he's strong enough.
In 2001, Ley lost all the "water booths" she calls them – polling stations in isolated cities like Deniliquin, Tooleybuc and Hay with voters at the drought front. Since that election in 2001, she has built an impressive voice buffer in these irrigation communities: she received 90% of the votes in the Blighty polling station at the last election. In March, NSW won 11% of the vote in the state elections. Both Ley and Mack know if the anger is spreading, it can be totally decimated in some of these irrigation communities.
But both recognize that it is only half the fight. In order to win a 20-point margin, Mack must build an unlikely coalition between angry farmers in the southwestern corner of NSW and the rusted liberal voters in Albury.
Its challenge is to convince Albury that their small businesses will feel the economic consequences of drought every day – and to do this, it needs water to be a big booth.
"If you make a cake or do something in the kitchen, water is a key ingredient. Without water, you don't have productivity. You don't have an economy without productivity. Without an economy, you don't. And without a town you don't have a larger town like Albury."
His theory may be healthy. With the fourth highest unemployment rate of any board in NSW, Albury is not exactly on the rise, but on many lifetime voters the coalition in the city is a long bow draw.
Louise Jones, who walks with her dog along Kiewa Street on Tuesday morning, knows Mack as Mayor and thinks he's a "family man" but doesn't vote for him on May 18th. the number of lifelong liberal voters who said at this early stage of the campaign that they were planning a show had a cause for concern at Ley Camp.
"He is well respected throughout the area," says Bianca McGibbon. "My family has always been a liberal voter. I'm a liberal voter, but I'm definitely going to change my voice. There are just a few things about Sussan and I don't think he's strong enough."
Several voters chose the 2017 spending scandal, which saw that Ley had lost her position in the cabinet as a breaker. While the saga did not show up strongly in Mack's campaign, these elections will be the first because Ley resigned from her role as Minister of Health, Aging Care and Sports in buying a Gold Coast investment asset during a taxpayer-funded trip.
Others are not able to look around the water when they say who they will vote for.
"Water is all," says Mike Eden. "And we need some change. I'm very happy to be a marginal seat."
Mack gave him his best shot, but he did not create the same support network as Voices for Indi, which drives Cathy McGowan for two terms.
Mack has 300 volunteers (compared to 1000 McGowan), has been in the race for eight weeks (McGowan has fought six months to run until her shock victory) and has much bigger margins to overcome. Yippee).
An independent candidate stands for royal commission in the water, stops Murray Darling's watershed plan and openly flirts with the cessation of the water buy-back program completely after recent reports that the company once enacted by Energy Minister Angus Taylor received $ 80 million in taxpayers funds in what experts state t a rough agreement for the government.
Mack sees energy as his next major policy area. He considers extraction and farming to be two dueling entities – he says that more due diligence needs to be done on Adani before being approved – and he gets excited about talking about recycling and solar panels. Like most other independent personalities, it also supports the National Integrity Commission.
There were several dirty games in what some might have taken as a sign of how narrow a race is. Ley's campaign team found that one corflute was shrouded in swastika, and a fake rumor of drunken behavior spread in some corners of the voters.
Mack's campaign worries that Ley has rented an office next to her to fill her with corfu and few, and both sides go to the local newspaper. Border post every other day with potshots on another on local issues, or deliberately escaped internal voting.
As in 2001, Farrer is in pain. Drought is difficult and voters have an alternative candidate.
The last time they didn't think twice.
Max is a journalist in The Herald and The Age.