THE Liberals made a concerted bid to head off the surging popularity of Louise Burge in the Farrer electorate with the party's deputy leader Julie Bishop branding independents as the country's "pre-eminent political armchair critics".
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley was accompanied to Mrs Burge's home town of Deniliquin last night by Ms Bishop in a crucial move a week before the federal election.
The Liberal Party duo came face to face with a town crying out for help after one of the worst droughts in history which had crippled the local rice growing industry.
Deniliquin is also suffering from a declining population and job losses and the rise of social problems including mental health.
Mrs Burge is one of three candidates in the election from the Deniliquin area, but is the one putting the most heat on Ms Ley's strong grip on Farrer.
"Independents live in a fantasy world," Ms Bishop said.
"They can promise everything and never have to deliver and when their promises don't come true they blame the major parties.
"I know you are backing someone, but I've watched over 12 years that independents don't deliver for you.
"I know how many independents have been a cabinet minister, I know how many independents have been a minister, I know how many independents have delivered a budget. Not one in Australia's history."
Ms Ley and Ms Bishop were guests at a community forum involving the mayors of the Deniliquin, Conargo and Jerilderie councils and representatives from the irrigation and rice growing industries.
Ms Bishop made a pledge to bring the water minister to Deniliquin if the Liberals are elected next Saturday.
She also backed Ms Ley for a cabinet position if the Liberals are successful in reclaiming power.
Ms Ley and Ms Bishop were told the major issues in Deniliquin were the fallout from the yet-to-be-released Murray Darling Basin plan, a $5 million upgrade of the local airport and being connected to natural gas.
Ms Bishop started yesterday campaigning at Nowra in the seat of Gilmore before flying to Albury and then catching another plane to Deniliquin with Ms Ley.
The government plane Ms Bishop travelled to Albury on was too big to land at Deniliquin.
Ms Ley acknowledged Mrs Burge was a threat to her holding onto Farrer.
"Any local candidate will have support and any local candidate will get support on the day," she said.
"Of course I acknowledge that.
"I was pleased Julie was able to give confidence to the people of Deni and she said I stuck up for the people of Deni in the party room.
"The thing that concerns me is that people might think that I am not making an effort on their behalf.
"It makes it a lot harder being in opposition because you work harder to achieve less."