By Colin MacGillivray
NATIONALS candidate for Nicholls Sam Birrell has vowed to build relationships with people across the southern end of the electorate as he prepares to run in this year’s federal election.
Mr Birrell was officially endorsed as the Nationals candidate this month after incumbent Nationals member Damian Drum last year announced he would not seek re-election.
Mr Birrell, who grew up near Murchison, south-west of Shepparton and has a background in agriculture and agronomy, said he looked forward to getting to know people across the electorate during his campaign, including the Broadford and Seymour areas.
He said he had some familiarity with the area after attending boarding school at Kilmore’s Assumption College from 1989 to 1992.
He said his primary focus would be encouraging economic growth and government investment in infrastructure while preserving the country atmosphere of rural towns.
“I’m keen to see what [people in Seymour and Broadford] think. I’m sure people there are excited by the growth potential and all the economic activity and jobs that that brings, but I would also think they’re very keen on not becoming outer suburbs of Melbourne but protecting their unique communities,” he said.
Mr Birrell has spent the past six years as chief executive of the Committee for Greater Shepparton, an advocacy organisation.
He said the role had given him experience dealing with politicians at a state and national level.
“I’ve been to Canberra and I’ve been at Spring Street a lot advocating for things for the greater Shepparton and Goulburn Valley region,” he said.
“I feel like I’m pretty experienced in the issues that face this part of the world.
“I’m very much a regional development person. I like seeing regions progress.
“I’ve seen what’s happened in greater Shepparton since the government has invested, and it’s been really positive. We’ve moved the economy forward and we’re moving forward as a region, and I want to see more of that.”
Mr Birrell praised Mr Drum, who has been a federal MP since 2016 and represented Nicholls since the electorate’s creation in 2019.
“I think ‘Drummy’ has been a terrific member. He’s been very authentic,” Mr Birrell said.
“He’s managed to ensure that infrastructure funding has come to this part of the world, and that’s what the Nationals do. They ensure that regional Australia gets its fair share.
“It’s a great track record to carry on from if I’m elected.”