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Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Page: 14181

Mrs ELLIOT (Richmond) (19:30): I rise to update the House on the ongoing reckless and arrogant behaviour of the New South Wales Liberal-National government. The 23 March state election will be a referendum on health care in the Tweed. Geoff Provest and the Nationals want to impose a nine-storey hospital on state-significant farmland at Cudgen, but New South Wales Labor stands with the community in opposing this massive overdevelopment. Instead, Labor will build a new hospital at Kings Forest better, faster and on budget.

The fact is that only New South Wales Labor will build a new $534 million public hospital and keep the current Tweed Hospital in public hands for ongoing health and community services, whilst saving and protecting Cudgen farmlands and Kingscliff from Geoff Provest's Gold Coast style overdevelopment. It's not too late to save Cudgen and Kingscliff from the National Party and their developer mates. The proposed site at Cudgen hasn't even been purchased, and there aren't even development approvals in place. So this election will be a referendum on where you want your new hospital built.

The New South Wales Liberals and Nationals should be ashamed of themselves. They're behaving like cowboys, threatening local community groups and flouting Commonwealth laws, whilst Nationals MP Geoff Provest persists with his betrayal, lies and misinformation.

Across the North Coast, our community continues to speak up about the many issues and concerns surrounding the location of the hospital. This one issue continues to galvanise locals and draw attention to the betrayal by the National Party of the good people of the Tweed in the Nationals' push to develop the rich, volcanic, state-significant farmland at Cudgen. Last week, another rally was held to save the Cudgen plateau from development, with hundreds of people in attendance. I'm proud of the ordinary mums and dads in my community who have shown incredible commitment and perseverance in the face of continued bully-boy antics, snubs and brush-offs by the National Party.

There's a long list of deplorable behaviours by these cowboys, but let me point to a few choice examples of how out of touch and arrogant this New South Wales Liberal-National government really is. Over the last 10 months, a local community group, the Relocate Team, have made repeated requests to meet Nationals MP Geoff Provest to discuss his decision to impose a nine-storey hospital on high-value farmland. For over nine months, he's refused to meet with them. In October 2018, when our community held a peaceful gathering outside his office, he still refused to speak with them, and instead hid in his office, no doubt hoping they would go away. Whilst this was playing out, Geoff Provest's National Party mate Matthew Fraser, the Nationals' candidate for Richmond, hid a short distance away, behind a bus shelter. He posted a Facebook video vilifying those ordinary community members, calling them 'the great unwashed'. There are dual themes emerging here: arrogance and cowardice. I think it's pretty self-evident what kind of leadership the National Party has shown in our local community.

We saw more of the same in January this year, when the New South Wales Premier flew into Kingscliff for a stealth visit. The Premier didn't alert the media. She refused to meet with locals or hear their concerns, despite the repeated requests made by the community. Instead, the Premier exclusively lunched with local National Party members and well-known Cudgen land bankers. In snubbing the Relocate Team, the Premier, like her National Party colleagues, showed nothing but contempt for our community. Our community deserves better than that.

The government's political arm and project partner, Health Infrastructure NSW, have also engaged in bullying behaviour. Health Infrastructure sent threatening letters to dissenting locals, trying to intimidate them into silence. This cheap and nasty stunt highlights the lengths these cowboys will go to when our community wants to be listened to and have action taken.

Environmental concerns are wide ranging, too. I've written to the federal minister, asking for her to intervene under the EPBC Act. In November 2018, the Department of the Environment and Energy wrote to the New South Wales government, outlining their obligations. To date, we've not seen a referral to the department, despite evidence of threatened and vulnerable species on or adjacent to the proposed hospital site. The state government have clearly flouted Commonwealth law and breached their responsibilities under the EPBC Act.

Nationals MP Geoff Provest continues to spruik misinformation when it comes to the current Tweed Hospital site. We all know the agenda of the current New South Wales Liberal-National government is to close and sell off the current Tweed Hospital for development. The Nationals' recent claim of free parking at the new hospital is also untrue. The EIS clearly outlines a car parking management plan which includes boom gate access, structured fees for various time periods, multiple payment methods and plans to operate this parking system 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The New South Wales Liberals and Nationals and Health Infrastructure have underestimated our community's capacity to unite against this most unfair decision. The Nationals' belligerent position to impose a nine-storey hospital on high-yield farming land at Cudgen is morally, ethically and environmentally wrong. It shows the Nationals are not representing our community, and it's so clear that, under the Nationals, you don't count. But, under Labor, you do count. This state election is all about priorities. Labor stands with the community in opposing this massive overdevelopment, and New South Wales Labor will build a new hospital at Kings Forest better, faster and on budget plus keep the current Tweed Hospital in public hands for ongoing health and community services.