By ASHLEIGH BAGSHAW
Despite being one of the largest electorates in the State, the Flinders district is arguably one of the most underrepresented regions in South Australia.
The electorate, which covers an area of approximately 58,000 square kilometres, has a population of just over 33,000 people.
The seat of Flinders is considered a safe Liberal seat, and to date has only been held by one representative outside of the Liberal Party.
It is renowned for its range of diverse industries, including agriculture, fishing, and mining.
The needs of voters, however, remain fairly consistent across the electorate.
The majority of voters believe there is a need to focus more on increasing tourism, improving local infrastructure, and establishing industries which would increase the number of available jobs.
Mayor of Ceduna, Allan Suter said, “The biggest issue as far as the government here in Ceduna is concerned is infrastructure.”
He said the Thevenard Port, which is the second busiest port in the entire nation, is an example of one structure that requires more funding to ensure its long-term viability.
The majority of minerals mined from the Flinders area are exported through Thevenard, which has great economic benefit to the region.
“We also receive limited support from the Government in the areas of tourism and transportation,” Mr Suter said.
“Our potential for tourism here is massive but that potential remains untapped, and our entire region could be turned around if we were given one tram.”
Whyalla faces a similar range of issues.
Antoinette Daniels, a university tutor from Whyalla said, “Our roads and infrastructure desperately need an upgrade, and there are so many facilities in our area which also need attention.”
“Whyalla is a beautiful town with so much to offer, and we need to find ways to attract tourism here because it would do so much for our local economy,” said Ms Daniels.
Underemployment is the other major concern throughout the major service centres of the region, with the 2016 census finding that only 54 per cent of the Flinders population is employed full time.
Voters in the major towns are concerned by not only the lack of jobs but also the lack of job security.
“There’s a big issue with the job situation here in Whyalla, as our main manufacturing industry went into crisis last year,” she said.
“We really need the Government to invest in expanding Whyalla and providing more employment opportunities for people.”
Mr Suter also raised concerns about the lack of jobs available for Ceduna locals, noting that “there are certainly high figures of unemployment here in Ceduna.”
One issue that stands out for voters in rural districts, such as the regional town of Cummins, is the lack of policies and initiatives to support local farmers.
Farmer, Henry Treloar said, “The population in Flinders is mainly farmers, or people in the big towns who rely on farmers, and so they need to be supported,”
“For example, the farmers need better roads because if the roads are poor, machinery gets damaged and crops are lost from the downtime.”
Healthcare also seems to be a major concern for all voters across the electorate, following the closure of day surgery facilities in Cummins and Tumby Bay, a lack of funding to operate the mental health ward in Port Lincoln hospital, and the scaling down of emergency departments across the entire region.
“The health system is an issue because we don’t have the facilities we need and we have a real shortage of doctors and nurses here,” Mr Treloar said.
“Patients are forced to go to Adelaide for specialist appointments, and country hospitals had to be downsized so that the new Royal Adelaide hospital could be built.”
Despite all these issues, voters in the Flinders electorate say the biggest problem is the fact the State Government often overlooks the needs of rural communities.
Mr Suter said, “Things would be so much better if the region received more political attention.”
“There seems to be an arrogant disregard of our electorate by most political parties because we are not in a decision-making seat,” he said.
“Elections are essentially won and lost in the city.”
The tendency of major parties to direct the majority of funding into Adelaide-based initiatives has also attracted criticism from Flinders voters.
Image Source: The Advertiser