A dramatic fallout over water management saw Murray MP Helen Dalton split from the New South Wales Fishers and Farmers Party (SFF) to become an independent.
- Murray MP Helen Dalton has resigned as a member of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers.
- She will remain on the transverse bench as an independent.
- The SFF says Ms Dalton’s position in the party had become ‘untenable’
Ms Dalton won the SFF seat of the Nationals in the 2019 election. She was the only woman in the group.
Ms. Dalton led an intensive water rights campaign for her South Basin community.
Last week, Ms Dalton raised concerns about members of her own party failing to back her support for a motion of disallowance on the issue of floodplain mining.
Ms Dalton has repeatedly raised concerns about new regulations which she says will disadvantage irrigators in the south.
“[I am] disappointed that our members of the Upper House abstained from voting,” she told ABC Riverina after the disallowance vote in parliament.
Ms Dalton said she had received assurances from SFF leader Robert Borsak that party members in the Legislative Council would support the bill.
The motion put forward by independent MLC Justin Field was successful after being backed by the Labor Party, the Green and Animal Justice Party, with the two Upper House gunmen skipping the vote.
Ms Dalton said the lack of support from her party was the last straw and she decided to quit the party on Thursday and sit on the cross benches as an independent.
“They refused to vote against the National Party’s questionable legislative changes that allowed excessive water consumption in the northern basin.
“These legislative changes have really disadvantaged the communities of Lower Darling and the irrigators of Murray River.
“I have always said that I would put my electorate before my party.”
Ms Dalton said the party removed her as an administrator of its own Facebook page and then took down the page which had 27,000 followers after she quit.
She said she would fight to get the page back.
In a statement, SFF leader Robert Borsak said Ms Dalton’s position was “untenable”.
“Under the guise of supporting southern farmers and irrigators, and unbeknownst to the Party, Helen has continued to make hidden deals with Justin Fields and the Green Party over the past three years to make environmental water s flows further south in South Australia,” he said.
“This policy of appeasement and treatment of the far left goes directly against what SFF stands for and what we promised to do for the people of Murray.
“We invested a significant amount of resources and confidence to win the Nationals seat, so it’s a shame it ended this way.”
He said the party would contest the seat again with a new candidate.
Ms Dalton said she was disappointed the party tried to smear her in its press release about her resignation.
Male dominated party
The MP for Murray said there had been an ‘accumulation of issues’ she had concerns about with the party, including how they were treating her as a woman.
“It’s really hard to be at a party with all the men. It’s been very hard for me too, especially when the ideas I had and the suggestions I made were rejected,” a- she declared.
“They’re incredibly autocratic and that doesn’t speak to me. I think we should all have a say around the table.
Ms Dalton won the seat with a 26% swing against the Nationals and is confident she can keep the seat and increase her margin now that she has left the Shooters.
“I think I’m going to get another 5% of women voters running as independents.”
The party holds two other seats in the legislature, including Barwon in the northwest of the state and Orange in the midwest.