Has Mildura Put Itself Into the Political Wilderness? This is the question that faces the community leading into the next four years of Labor Government.
Accepting that the greater percentage of Mildura voters wanted a change of representation, their choice may or may not backfire badly having chosen an Independent rather than a Labor Party representative.
Over the weeks leading up to the election voters were spoon fed stories of Shepparton gaining $630 million dollars in funding because they had an Independent Member in Suzanna Sheed. Voters were told the Cupper camp has been" keeping score and their numbers don’t lie", with “the Big Parties failing us”.
Mildura has bought the “con” of creating a marginal seat, when in fact it has been marginal since Craig Bildstein (Liberal) won the seat in 1988 from Milton Whiting (Country Party/Nationals) who had held the seat since 1962. Bildstein held the seat for three terms until 1996 when defeated by Russell Savage (Labor leaning Independent) who held it for three terms before being defeated by Peter Crisp (Nationals) in 2006. Crisp also held the seat for three terms until being defeated by Cupper (Labor leaning Independent). Mildura has been a swinging seat for thirty years. If the seat is to be truly “marginal” it would be expected that Cupper will lose her seat at the next election.
For now the pressure is on Ms Cupper to produce the goods, she has four years to have the Mildura Base Hospital returned to public ownership and operation, the return of the passenger train service to Mildura and large increases in funding for SuniTafe and rural public education, along with the rest of her long list of proposed changes.
Education may be relatively easy to achieve as it is a basic promise by Labor across the State, the Hospital and Train will be her test, if they are not delivered, she may well face oblivion in 2022.
The last experiment with an Independent didn't bring huge a huge financial windfall and certainly missed the train.
The 2022 Election will be the big test. The major parties will decide if they wish to fight for Mildura, if they do the promises will come, but they will depend on electing a candidate from either Labor, Liberal or the Nationals, not keeping Cupper in power. This may change if Cupper jumps ship from the Independent Camp and joins the Labor Party, politically making sense but morally wrong given her stance on openness and transparency.
The next four years may well be a huge learning curve for the community and Ms Cupper, with the high probability of neither being winners. Ms Cupper has to deliver.
To be a truly swinging seat, Cupper will need to be replaced in 2022 or hold the seat by 250 votes.