Last week I announced I would again nominate to be Labor’s candidate in the Hunter electorate. The recent re-distribution dramatically changed federal electoral boundaries. On this occasion the impact was more dramatic than with past redistributions because population shifts have caused NSW to lose a seat in the House of Representatives to Western Australia.
It’s history now that they did so by abolishing the Hunter electorate. However, a new seat has been created comprising about 40 per cent of the current Hunter electorate and named Hunter. It was constructed by merging the electorates of Hunter and Charlton and cutting off everything above and west of Muswellbrook Shire (going to New England electorate) and Maitland, Kurri Kurri, Neath, Abermain and Weston (going to Paterson). Cessnock, Branxton, Greta, Singleton and Muswellbrook remain in Hunter.
Coming to the new Hunter from the current Charlton are Cardiff, West Wallsend, and the western side of Lake Macquarie down to Wyee.
The fact that I will no longer have the opportunity to represent Kurri Kurri, Weston, Abermain and Neath is a source of great regret. It has been a great honour – but I won’t be a stranger.
– Last week those elected to the Parliament in 1996 celebrated the 20th anniversary of our election. This is an abbreviated version of what I told the Parliament to mark the occasion.
“Twenty years ago today I was extended to the great privilege of representing the wonderful people of Hunter and I thank them for that honour. Hunter Region is a better, wealthier place and has better infrastructure than it did 20 years ago. Its economy is stronger and more diverse. Unemployment, while rising again unfortunately, is much lower than it was.
But to my frustration, some things have not changed. The big one is youth and intergenerational unemployment. Within our unemployed are those who are effectively born never to work. We cannot achieve social cohesion, keep crime rates low or maximise our economy while ever people are born to be idle.
The intervention must begin early and, amongst other things, that means properly resourcing our schools through the Gonski reforms.
We have another big challenge ahead; the money we secure for our coal has fallen dramatically, and thousands are losing their jobs. Many are, or will be, 50 years of age or older and hold skills that are not easily transferrable to other vocations.
So we need a plan. First, to establish the case for government intervention; second, to produce a strategy for even greater economic diversity and jobs pathways for those affected by the downturn; and third, to develop a robust funding submission for government funding support. These, and my commitment to stronger and better health and education systems are my key priorities in this election year.
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