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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Williams cops backlash over job cuts response

There are calls for John Williams to step up or stand down over proposed job cuts.

November 20, 2012 4:10am

Murray Valley Community Action Group chair Lester Wheatley has backed calls from the local community for NSW Member for Murray-Darling John Williams to ‘‘do more’’ or quit.

Mr Williams has copped a strong community backlash over his response to proposed job losses in Deniliquin as a result of NSW Government cutbacks.

The NSW Government’s proposed super organisation, Local Land Services, is expected to cut seven of eight jobs at Deniliquin’s Department of Primary Industries office and 15 positions across Catchment Management Authority offices in Deniliquin, Buronga and Albury.

Mr Williams backed the government’s proposal, saying ‘‘if that results in job losses, then that’s the way it needs to be’’.

Mr Wheatley said it was not the first time Mr Williams’ response to issues facing Deniliquin and district ‘‘has been weak’’, and said the Murray-Darling electorate deserves more from him.

‘‘We should expect more from our local representative,’’ he said.

‘‘My observation is that the parliamentarians go along the party lines, and most of them are from the city.

‘‘We need politicians that will stand up for us and we should be seeing a vigorous reaction from John Williams.

‘‘If the government pushes ahead with its proposed (electorate) boundary redistributions, John Williams could be representing half the state.’’

Mr Wheatley said it was ironic the cuts to agricultural services like the DPI had come at a time when Australia was trying to improve the industry and benefit from its economic potential.

‘‘It’s happening in the face of growing optimism about the future of food and fibre production,’’ he said.

‘‘We should be taking a more productive role.

‘‘It is a disgrace that this should happen, especially from a Parliamentary system.’’

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said he too was disappointed with Mr Williams’ response to the proposed job cuts.

He said he intends to raise the matter with the state member ‘‘personally’’.

‘‘It is disappointing to think John would say something like that, and I intend to speak with him,’’ he said.

‘‘It makes me feel a little disgruntled — he should be reacting even if we only lose one person from Deniliquin or the region.’’

Cr Renwick said the Local Land Services proposal was discussed at a country mayors’ meeting on Friday, but said there did not seem to be ‘‘too much panic’’ about the plans.

But Cr Renwick himself has previously told the Pastoral Times he finds the proposal ‘‘scary’’.

The Local Land Services proposal will see the DPI, CMA and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) merged into one organisation.

When confirming 15 permanent jobs would be lost from three CMA offices last week, Murray CMA general manager David Leslie, who is based in Deniliquin, said there would also be cuts to temporary staff early next year.

Potential job losses from the Deniliquin LHPA office will not be known until at least mid-2013, as the ratepayer-funded organisation will be brought into the merger at a later date.

The LHPA has, however, reportedly been instructed to slash next year’s budget by 10 per cent.

Local Land Services is expected to be fully operational by January 2014, and the recent budget cuts are believed to be a pre-cursor to the change.

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