THE Chaffey electorate has remained conservative since 1975 and was retained by the Liberal and Country League party and Liberals until 1997, when Karlene Maywald won the seat for the SA Nationals and held it until 2010.
It covers the Riverland region of Renmark and includes the towns of Berri, Barmera, Loxton and Waikerie.
Ms Maywald held her position until she was defeated in 2010 by Liberal Tim Whetstone, who still holds the seat.
Mr Whetstone, Labor’s Sim Singh-Malhi, SA Best’s Michelle Campbell, Greens’ candidate Philip Pointer, Dignity Party’s Richard Challis and Australian Conservatives’ Trevor Scott will contest the seat of Chaffey on March 17.
What do you see as the major issue affecting SA agriculture? How would you rectify this?
WHETSTONE: Water security is a huge issue. The very foundations of agriculture and horticulture industries in the region were built on water security. I will continue to fight on behalf of my electorate for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be delivered. Other major issues include affordable and reliable electricity.
CAMPBELL: The River Murray is the economic corridor running through the middle of the Chaffey electorate. With extensive upstream irrigation development in NSW and Vic, water security, delivery and water quality is going to be important issue in the future. We back the existing Murray-Darling Basin Plan and a Royal Commission into allegations of water theft in the upstream states. The high cost of electricity is hampering competitiveness in the horticulture sector and telecommunications black spots are also impacting productivity. Road condition is also an issue.
SINGH-MALHI: Energy and water security are the biggest challenges not only in the Riverland but in all of SA. We are the only government that is acting on this issue. We are creating ways to generate renewable energy so that we out-meet our demand, to have more supply and lower the electricity prices. As a small business we feel the effect of high electricity prices and only the Labor Party is doing something about it, and no other party has the solution.
CHALLIS: The constantly narrowing gap between costs and what the farmer can get for their produce is the most immediate problem we are facing. The answer is complex but it involves diversification of product, opening up new markets, cost reductions and the strictest of quality control. Government can help with scientific input to allow product improvement and diversification, trade promotions and agreements to open up new markets and infrastructure improvements to reduce costs and improve access to markets.
SCOTT: Labor has not given agriculture the focus it needs. It has cut the PIRSA budget which means cuts to agricultural research and development. Our view on this is that the budget needs to increase. PIRSA under an Australian Conservatives’ government would have to work closely with farmers and industry, and our rural and regional policy invests in the sector by investing in the people, services and communities that support our farmers.
What are your views on allowing mining on prime farming land in Chaffey?
WHETSTONE: I believe there needs to be a collaborative approach on this issue. It is important for farmers to know how to deal with explorers and miners, and the rights of the respective parties.
CAMPBELL: Our agriculture policy commits to investigating options to strengthen legislative protections for agricultural land to reduce land use conflict. This recognises less than 5 per cent of SA’s landmass is suitable for dryland agriculture to grow crops such as wheat, barley, canola, chickpeas and lentils and a further 3pc is suitable for high rainfall grazing.
SINGH-MALHI: My family are primary producers and we need a healthy flowing river so that our business thrives and is always going to the next level.
CHALLIS: Kelly Vincent and the Dignity Party are very strongly in favour of sustainability. Destruction of agricultural land which could be producing food and fibre for thousands of years for a short-term financial hit of mining is unsustainable. The Dignity Party will strongly oppose any proposal for mining that would destroy prime agricultural land.
SCOTT: At this stage there is too much uncertainty for farmers and graziers in the arable land areas regarding open cut extractive mining. This can lead to unsustainability in farming practices and prevent neighbouring farmers from being able to farm.
Do you support the moratorium on genetically-modified crops? Why?
WHETSTONE: The Weatherill Labor government has claimed there are benefits of being GM-free and that SA producers receive a premium from this, but to date they have not provided that sound evidence. I want to look at the factual evidence and make an informed decision on GM.
CAMPBELL: We would only consider reversing the GM moratorium following a comprehensive and compelling investigation into the benefits versus risks. The report would need to thoroughly and independently consider how issues such as GM contamination to neighbours, patents and supply chain exclusivity can be dealt with, plus premium price claims for non-GM, advances in crop yield and drought tolerance. We note that GM implementation is an irreversible process, so extreme caution should apply.
SINGH-MALHI: At this stage I am not sure about genetically-modified crops. I will look into it more and also wait for some more research which shows solid evidence of the safety and wellbeing of consumers. It is about ensuring our growers have the best possible ways in place to be more profitable and achieve the best results.
CHALLIS: The Dignity Party is in favour of decisions made based on sound scientific and economic evidence. At the moment the GM moratorium is justified on economic grounds as 38 nations in the world, including most of the European Union, have major restrictions on the import of GMO organisms. The Dignity Party supports the moratorium on GMOs but believes the present expiry date is too far away and the matter needs to be re-examined regularly as the scientific and economic environment changes.
- Greens candidate Philip Pointer was contacted to take part in this article but did not respond before deadline.
SIM Singh-Malhi was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia at five years old.
In 2005 his family bought a convenience store and vineyards in Renmark but in recent years growing vegetables have become a part of the family business.
Capsicums, tomatoes, eggplant and cucumbers are grown in green houses and sold interstate as well as at local fruit and vegetable shops across the Riverland.
Mr Singh-Malhi studied pharmaceutical science before entering politics.
“I decided to get into politics because I believe the people of Chaffey deserve better representation and I haven't seen that happen in the past eight years,” he said.
“Coming from a small family business I believe I represent the region well and I am also very connected to the land.”
Mr Singh-Malhi said energy and water security were the biggest challenges for the region, with his biggest concern being that the big issues had spread across the state.
AS A deeply passionate advocate for the River Murray, Michelle Campbell has had a 23-year professional career in Murray-Darling Basin water reform.
First starting out as a Landcare officer, Ms Campbell then joined the Chaffey electorate office during the Millennium Drought and formation of the Basin Plan.
She then progressed as a member of the Berri Barmera Council before becoming the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
“I want to make the seat of Chaffey marginal again. The last time the seat of Chaffey was marginal we were on the political map and received a $40 million hospital upgrade,” she said.
“We also need to address the issues facing our horticulture sector.”
RICHARD Challis is focused on having his region valued by government to help ease the challenges of transport and communication barriers within his community.
Following 25 years as an air traffic controller, international search and rescue, airline management and a railway manager, it was caring for his daughter in the 1990s that opened the pathway to politics with a party that advocated for people with disabilities and their carers.
WATER security is at the top of Tim Whetstone’s political agenda and he will push for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be delivered on time and in full.
“It is our number one challenge for the Chaffey electorate and will continue to be in the future,” Mr Whetstone said.
“The Riverland also needs affordable and reliable electricity,” he said.
Also front of mind is addressing social issues of increased drug use, domestic violence and homelessness.
“We need to grow the local economy and create jobs, these are key issues, as is having accessible health services for the big challenges faced within the community,” Mr Whetstone said.
Mr Whetstone entered politics with the Liberal Party after completing an apprenticeship as a fitter and turner with General Motors Holden and working as a project manager on the Moomba gas fields.
He moved to the Riverland in 1989 and purchased a citrus property and developed a vineyard.
This led Mr Whetstone to accept a the position of a Renmark Irrigation Trust director and chairman of the South Australian Murray Irrigators.
TREVOR Scott was a breakfast radio announcer for 16 years and learned about what makes his electorate’s community tick.
“I have spent countless hours talking with people and because of that I have gained insight into what this region needs,” Mr Scott said.
An elected member of the Berri Barmera Council, he decided to stand as an Australian Conservatives candidate as he believed the region needed a stronger voice in the Lower House to ensure that whoever forms government is aware of the region’s needs.