OUR SAY: Regional voters could lose voice

EVEN the most optimistic of our regional politicians would have to concede it will be impossible to arrest the declining number of regional electorates by increasing the population beyond the Great Divide.

A local government conference in Canberra in June will be told that each time regional NSW or regional Australia loses a seat during a redistribution the task of representing regional voters becomes harder.

If the voice of regional residents becomes fainter in state and federal parliaments it will become harder to win arguments about funding for infrastructure and services and thus it will become harder to attract new residents, and the downward spiral will continue.

Even if a few regional areas can register net gains in population, thanks to the success of programs like Evocities, the harsh reality is that rapid population growth in areas like western Sydney and the north and south coasts of Queensland will force the redrawing of electoral boundaries at the expense of country voters.

Unless our regional politicians are advocating a return to the gerrymander years of Queensland under Joh Bjelke-Petersen, where regional electorates had far fewer voters than metropolitan electorates, another way will have to be found to raise the voice of country residents.

STORY: BELLS LINE EXPRESSWAY THE ROAD TO REGIONAL GROWTH

A call from Cr Russell Turner, a former state Nationals MP for Orange, for spending on transport links like the Bells Line expressway to make the central west a more attractive place to live is commendable but can’t possibly change the balance of metropolitan and regional electorates.

At best our political leaders will have to make a case for more spending in regional areas based on the principles of equity of access. 

If they cannot successfully argue that then regional voters must ask whether we have the right politicians for the job.

In NSW and Canberra The Nationals have an opportunity to demonstrate they can hold their own in coalition governments and get results for regional voters.

If they fail the marginal seat argument of Cr Jeff Whitton is perhaps the only tactic left.

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