The political battle for a northern Victorian electorate has regional advocates optimistic they can get their issues on the national stage.
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The battle for Murray is a three-cornered content thanks to the retirement of Liberal MP Sharman Stone after 20 years in office.
“As good as the local members have been, if one party had a significant majority then we wouldn’t factor on the Australian stage,” said Sam Birrell, the CEO of the Committee for Greater Shepparton.
“This one’s a bit different because we’ve got two conservative parties running against each other.”
Mr Birell said investment in infrastructure and education were among the top issues in the region, along with the future viability of fruit processor SPC Ardmona.
“SPC is competing on the world processing market, and like many Australian businesses has to compete on that stage and that means having the latest technology and the latest thinking,” he said.
Sue Nalder, the head of LaTrobe University’s Shepparton campus, named education as the top issue she wanted politicians campaigning for.
She said governments needed to help retrain university educated people in rural communities.
“There are two areas to consider. First we have to convince our students to study at a higher level, because there is a lower rate of participation in higher education in regional areas,” Ms Nalder said.
“The other area is looking at the local industries and seeing what they need, and then look at how we offer what those people need.
“I just saw someone walk past here at the SPC factory, an employee there who has just graduated with a Bachelor of Business Accounting, so there are some really wonderful indications that this idea is working.”
Ms Nalder said she wanted policies to support regional university campuses, scholarships for students and extra resources put towards infrastructure for university campuses.
With the electorate named after the iconic river that runs past it, irrigation is always a hot-topic issue in the region.
Nationals candidate Damian Drum has vowed he would push for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to shift to Shepparton, if he wins the election.
But that suggestion has failed to impress dairy farmer Daryl Hoey.
“I think that would just politicise it even more,” he said.
“There are certainly departments within the basin authority that could be moved. River Murray Operations could go to Albury, Freshwater ecology could be moved to Mildura and the northern strategy could be moved to St George.
“That would be fine, but moving the MDBA to any part of the basin as a whole just puts community against community.”