It is now under six months until the election so I thought I would do my own version of Q&A based on the many questions I have received when I have been out and about. I have also received many comments on our social media posts. We’re now averaging over 30,000 engagements a month on our various social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website). The response to the campaign has been highly encouraging and at times overwhelming.
How’s it going?
Six months out from the election I feel we are where we need to be. The issues in the campaign are defined. The leading candidates in the political arena are known. I am very happy with the positive response we are getting to the issues we are talking about and the things we are getting involved in. I am also getting great support from the local Labor volunteers, the NSW Labor head office and the team of Shadow Ministers.
Next year will be interesting. If they’re not already, people will be overloaded with politics. We not only have the federal election on the 11th or 18th of May, there’s also a state election on the 23rd of March. My hunch is, is that people have already made their minds up on this federal government, the Liberals and the Nationals. The polls haven’t moved for a year. That said, I am prepared for the mother of all scare campaigns from the Libs and Nats. They’re the masters at it. And they’ve already had a crack at me calling me a blow-in: www.changecowper.com/blowin
What’s the main thing you hear?
“The Nationals are hopeless”; “the Nationals only look after their mates”; “Luke Hartsuyker hasn’t done a thing for the area”; “the government is out of touch”; “they shouldn’t have dumped Malcolm Turnbull”; “it is time for change”, and the new National Party candidate is, as one person put to me, “the invisible man”. One person at the Dorrigo Show put it best: “The world has changed, Australia has changed, we have changed, the Nationals haven’t changed”.
I also hear a lot of people say “all politicians” this and “all politicians” that. That annoys me a little. This government has been a shambles on any measure. Yet, everyone in the “political class” is being tarred by their failure. In my 20 plus years of Labor Party membership, I have never seen us more cohesive, courageous, united and policy focussed. Yet, everyone in politics suffers for the policy, personnel and organisational failures of the Libs and Nats.
What are the local issues?
There are about ten different electorates in Cowper. And they’re more thematic than geographic. By thematic I mean, older Australians, retirees, young families, tree and sea changers and environmentalists, beach culture, agricultural and primary industry interests and younger commuters and teleworkers. And there are more. The pronounced differences in demographics mean this electorate has more diversity in issues than most.
My four campaign themes are Employment (diversifying our industries), Environment (acting on clean energy and climate change), Equality (fixing the gaps between young and old, city and country, rich and poor) and Integrity (breaking the Nats cronyism on the Mid-North Coast).
Most people seem to focus on “bricks and mortar” when it comes to “things we need for the electorate”. I take a different view. Yes, infrastructure is one thing. But we also need services. It is no good building a hospital without having doctors, nurses and beds. And we also need assistance. We have too many people in poverty in Cowper.
On bricks and mortar, the Coffs Bypass and Port Macquarie Orbital are key issues. On services, we have a plan to boost local schools funding, fix the NBN, and provide cheaper energy through renewables (and in so doing act on climate change). In some parts of the electorate, unemployment is twice that of Sydney, and youth unemployment is approaching one-in-four. We have programs to address this. On assistance, we have a significant problem with housing affordability and social housing. We also have far too many older Australians on the waiting list for aged care home packages (about one per cent of the electorate). These are the local issues. There are many larger national issues, like assistance for pensioners and those seeking work, that are a focus for Labor.
Our electorate sits right between the regions of Sydney/Newcastle and Brisbane/Gold Coast two of the three wealthiest regions in the country. There are three electorates on the NSW North Coast, including Cowper. Of the six poorest electorates in Australia, three of the six are here on the Mid-North Coast and North Coast (Lyne, Cowper and Page). The common denominator is the National Party.
Of any specific issue in the public arena, I get asked a lot of questions about Adani. Unfortunately, no one – Labor, Liberals, Nationals, Greens or an Independent can “Stop Adani”. We have to work through the law, and we are committed to doing that. We don’t think any of the proposals for the Galilee Basin stack up environmentally, socially or economically. That said, they complied with the approvals given under the Campbell Newman State LNP Government, and we have to deal with those legal approvals without exposing the Australian taxpayer to tens of bills of dollars in compensation to Adani and others. Should we get into government we will deal with the matter and review all previous approvals, any new information and any further requests for approval that come before us. And we will put in place laws so that we never end up in this position again. Here’s some more information: www.changecowper.com/adani.
What about other candidates?
The Nationals candidate is Patrick Conaghan. From all reports, Patrick is a nice enough, well-meaning and successful person. Pat is not the problem – the party he is standing for is the undisputed problem. They’re a part of the problem and not a part of the answer.
The only other declared candidate at present is Dr Sally Townley, from The Greens. I have had a bit to do with her over the Coffs Harbour Bypass, Great Koala National Park and forests and forestry issues. We share a personal and professional passion for the environment.
Rob Oakeshott will be an independent candidate for Cowper. Rob’s entry into the race increases the likelihood of the Nationals retaining Cowper. Labor has done research and analysis on the electorate and found it is best placed to defeat the Nationals. If it comes down to a race between the Nationals and Rob, it is highly likely the Nationals will win. And then we’ll be stuck with a political novice, most likely in Opposition, for quite some time. It is a lose-lose.
The fact that Rob or any other candidate is running makes no difference to Labor’s campaign; Labor’s messaging; Labor’s intensity; Labor’s intent. My job is to get more people to vote Labor than for any other candidate. I have a straightforward message – Don’t muck around, don’t waste your vote – we’ll all be better off with a Labor voice inside a Labor a Government.
What questions do you have? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org